BEIRUT: Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reiterated the United Kingdom's support for Lebanon's "sovereignty and independence" in the UK's first official statement since Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned last week.
After speaking on the phone with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Sunday, Johnson said he reiterated to Bassil "the United Kingdom's full support for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon.” He added that Hariri had been a "good and trusted partner for the UK,” and that he hoped the prime minister would return to Beirut "without further delay ... not least in the interests of Lebanon's political stability."
Johnson said that the Lebanese Army "is the only legitimate authority within Lebanon, and no militia groups or foreign forces should aim to challenge the LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces] as the ultimate guarantor of the Lebanese people's security," in a reference to Hezbollah. In the televised resignation speech Hariri made from Riyadh last Saturday, he had blasted Hezbollah and its Iranian backers, citing its influence in Lebanon as a reason for his stepping down.
The British foreign secretary added in his statement that "Lebanon should not be used as a tool for proxy conflicts, and that its independence and integrity should be respected by all parties - within the country and beyond."
The statement was released hours before Hariri's first interview since his resignation, when he would tell tell Future TV's Paula Yacoubian he will return to Beirut "within days.”