Friday morning, December 20th, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale arrived in Beirut to attend his scheduled meetings with different politicians in Lebanon. Since its announcement, his visit has been anticipated by the Lebanese for the ambiguity of its motives.
Speculations and theories regarding his trip to Lebanon began to surface since it was made known to the public. Many people, in Lebanon and even in the United States, wondered what were the intentions of the former U.S ambassador to Lebanon when he decided to fly to the struggling country.
While some argued that he would be addressing the Lebanon-Israel maritime borders issue that has regained momentum recently, others believed his visit had something to do with the – then-upcoming – binding parliamentary consultations to name Lebanon’s next Prime Minister.
Around noon on Friday, Hale kicked off his political activity in Lebanon by making his first visit to the president in Baabda. From the presidential palace, he said that his visit reflected the “solid relationship” between the U.S and Lebanon.
Prior to that statement, during the meeting, President Aoun informed David Hale of the newly appointed Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, and told him that the formation of a new, capable government will soon follow this appointment.
The president praised the United States for the support it has shown for the Lebanese Army and took the opportunity to ask that the States renew its efforts in supporting the demarcation of the southern maritime border with Israel to preserve peace and stability in the south.
He also mentioned to Hale the Greek exploration ship that trespassed these borders this week. On the other hand, Hale told the president that the U.S urges Lebanon to form a government of specialists able to undergo real reformations.
After concluding his meeting with President Aoun, David Hale then met with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri in Ain El Tineh, where he stated that “It’s time to put aside partisan interests and act in the national interest.” Hale also attested that his country had no role in choosing or appointing Lebanon’s Prime Minister.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, in turn, stressed to the former ambassador that “Israel is responsible for the violations of Resolution 1701, not the last of which was the flight of drones over the southern suburbs [of Beirut].” The two discussed Lebanon’s political scene before the meeting was over.
Lastly, former PM Hariri welcomed David Hale for lunch in the afternoon in Bait Al Wasat, and the two proceeded to review the latest updates in Lebanon and the region.
Following the meeting with PM Hariri, Hale expressed his wish that the new government undergoes the reformations needed for the economy to flourish. He also informed the public of Washington’s readiness to assist Lebanon economically if such reformations are realized.
Regarding the ongoing protests, Hale praised their peacefulness while urging Lebanese security forces to maintain the safety of the protesters and to “prohibit the use of violence and intimidation tactics” against them.
David Hale is still scheduled to meet the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, at 11:00 a.m Saturday, December 21st. One source told The Daily Star that Hale’s visit to Lebanon “is purely to light a fire under them [Lebanese politicians] to wake up.”