Lebanon’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nassif Hitti has expressed his concerns over the possibility that Lebanon might become a “failed state” if the Lebanese people do not accept the painful structural economic reforms needed to take Lebanon out of the financial hole it has dug for itself.
Speaking exclusively to Sky News, ahead of the parliamentary vote of confidence on February 11th, Hitti said that he understood the frustrations of the people after months of protests across the country, but that the Lebanese people need to basically hang in there.
Dr. Hitti told Sky News: “We are very much aware of these very serious problems that the country is facing: an economic, financial crisis with strong social repercussions over time, and definitely it could have political repercussions in terms of chaos or whatever could happen after.”
He went on to add, “Imagine, God forbid, if we fall into a chaotic situation, what could happen, we have seen countries falling into that situation around us.”
He further insisted that it could be very dangerous for the future of the country to become a “failed state” or a “failing state.” He said: “What we are saying is give us the time, short time, to start moving along the path of serious – and I underline serious – comprehensive reforms addressing different aspects and sectors of the Lebanese economy.”
Currently, Lebanon’s President remains in place and most of the ministers, including Prime Minister Hassan Diab, are academics and not members of the political establishment. However, they were selected by the powerful political blocs, including Hezbollah, and deemed technocrats by the Prime Minister.
Dr. Hitti went on to state that he understands “the frustration of the people.” When asked if he accepted the continued charge of corruption, he said: “There is a serious problem of image, of perception, in Lebanon. But I am not defending my colleagues and myself. We are, all of us, in a way, experts in our own fields. We are not part of the political establishment; the traditional political establishment.”
Western countries, well-aware of the domino effect a failed state in Lebanon could propagate regionally and internationally, have promised to offer financial support according to multiple political statements – including one from the President of Lebanon.
This, however, will only take place if leaders show genuine signs of implementing the reform that’s needed.
Mr. Hitti told the reporter that Lebanon is very interested and in need of that type of assistance. “It’s the primary interests and objective of the Lebanese to stabilize their own country like it is the case for any country in the world,” he said.
“But I think the true stability, general stability, structural stability of Lebanon also is a regional interest and an international interest,” he added.
There is concern among western governments that organizations like Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization by the UK, the United States and others, now have even more influence on Lebanese politics.
On whether or not Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, Hitti replied: “It’s for those who are doing this accusation to come and provide the proof. Hezbollah is a Lebanese party. It represents a political component of Lebanese society. It is part of the government.”
Lebanon currently grapples with a Cabinet that gained the vote of confidence in Parliament but not in the streets.
As we move closer to the “rescue plan” of which PM Diab speaks, the coming weeks will tell whether or not the country will erupt into a new Revolution, or endure the painful steps it will take us to feel just a little “normal” again.