Wednesday’s previously unannounced visit to Beirut by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was significant on several levels.
Washington’s chief diplomat arrived in a country reeling under the weight of the war in Syria and pledged his administration’s support for the security and stability of Lebanon as it grapples with a political stalemate that has prevented the election of a new president.
But Kerry sounded a more serious note, namely that MPs should take responsibility for the lack of a president and rectify this as quickly as possible, so that the executive and legislative branches can get down to the business of seeing the state function normally.
The unstated message here is that there is no hope of seeing true, long-term stability and development until this stalemate comes to an end, and the quicker the better.
Despite these notes of alarm, Kerry also pledged an increase in aid to help Lebanon and other countries shoulder the burden of the Syria refugee crisis, meaning Washington has recognized the huge challenge that Beirut is grappling with.
Coming one day after the re-election of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Kerry’s timing was significant and so was his message.
Lebanese politicians should recognize and embrace the importance of Kerry’s show of support, and build on it to overcome the impasse over the presidential election. If they needed any proof that electing a head of state is a vital matter that can’t be strung out indefinitely, Kerry’s brief – but weighty – words should settle the matter.