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Lebanon's Former FM to Asharq Al-Awsat: I Concluded That a Reform Vision Doesn't Exist

Lebanon's Former FM to Asharq Al-Awsat: I Concluded That a Reform Vision Doesn't Exist

Thursday, 6 August, 2020 - 11:30
Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti speaks during a joint news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman, Jordan, July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed/Pool

The resignation of Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti sparked a wave of comments and speculation.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Hitti spoke about the reason behind his resignation, stressing his commitment to the adoption of a policy of neutrality and dissociation from regional conflicts.

He also called for an investigation to identify those responsible for the disaster that struck Lebanon as a result of the explosion at Beirut Port.

“This great tragedy that affected not only Beirut, but all the country, all Lebanese and all our brothers and friends across the world, reflects a state of neglect. An investigation must be carried out to discover what happened, and to determine those responsible, to know the circumstances about storing this huge amount of explosive material at the port of Beirut,” he said.

Asked about the international support shown to Lebanon and whether it would pave the way for more flexibility with regard to foreign economic aid, Hitti said: “In view of the scale of the catastrophe that hit Beirut and Lebanon, it is natural for the entire world to show sympathy and to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance. This in my view is a natural reaction, and should it be praised.”

But the resigned former minister emphasized that the position of foreign countries were very clear and they are based on the necessity of launching the structural reform process.

"By that, I mean comprehensive and in-depth reform of the Lebanese economy, which is an essential condition for providing the required assistance,” he noted.

On the reason behind his resignation, Hitti said: “After five and a half months in the government, I was convinced that the vision for reform which I was looking for is not present, and that determination is lacking. Therefore, there were more pressures and interventions from here and there within the framework of the traditional political game.”

He continued: “I am not holding a specific party responsible. I blame the Lebanese political structure in the context of its traditional game to keep the situation as it is, and perhaps to accept some formal and light reforms.”

Emphasizing the need for Lebanon to commit to a policy of neutrality, Hitti told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I entered the government and I was very realistic, and from the beginning I used to call for what is known as positive neutrality and not neutrality in the legal sense. Lebanon cannot be neutral between the Arab family and Israel. But positive neutrality is moving away from any axis and refusing to be drawn into conflicts, and instead working on building bridges and encouraging dialogue between countries.”

He went on to say: “The real and first reason for my resignation was that I was disappointed. I was hoping that we would proceed firmly with the reform process. This is my opinion and my conviction. Instead of the reforms that I was looking for, I found that we are back to the logic of quotas.”

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