German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to land in Beirut Thursday for a visit that is part of a new policy to play a bigger role in the Middle East. “Lebanon is part of that foreign policy,” a German diplomatic source said.
Merkel’s visit comes after German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier made an official visit in January and then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with Germany’s foreign minister earlier this year.
The general message of the trip will be to demonstrate the country’s continued economic and political support for Lebanon.
Hariri met with Merkel in April 2017, when she promised to visit Beirut if she was re-elected, the source said. “It’s mainly a show of political solidarity and support, keeping in mind what happened last November,” the source said, referring to Hariri’s resignation in late 2017, which was later rescinded.
Ties soured between Berlin and Riyadh after Germany’s then-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel made comments about Saudi “adventurism” in Lebanon and Yemen during Hariri’s resignation period.
Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador to Germany and hasn’t had an envoy in the country since.
An economic delegation and German MPs will accompany Merkel as well as foreign policy experts from parliamentary factions.
While German sides are at odds over their own immigration policy, Merkel will voice support for Lebanon’s host communities in the face of the Syrian refugee crisis, which has added to the burden on the country’s already struggling economy and infrastructure.
Germany’s interior minister has given Merkel until a European Union summit at the end of this month to tighten asylum rules, vowing to order border police to turn back migrants after that if no European deal is reached.
Inside Germany, there were doubts as to whether Merkel would be able to travel due to the rocky political situation.
The visit is expected to take place, but that could change at any moment. “It’s a bit fragile,” the diplomatic source said.
Germany’s “new direction” means it will be doing more in the Middle East, including Lebanon and its immediate neighborhood.
“I hope this shows the Lebanese that Lebanon is quite high on our agenda. There is much talk on Syria and Iraq, but Lebanon is a country where you can at least do something,” the source said.
Part of this support is political but also includes an economic component, reaffirming the reforms Lebanon committed to at April’s CEDRE conference in Paris, where the international community pledged over $11 billion to help bolster the country’s economy and infrastructure. “There is an idea about supporting and strengthening those ‘islands’ in the Middle East. We can make a difference,” the source said.
Local media reported that Merkel would offer Lebanon a $500 million line of credit. However, a source close to Hariri said this was “not true” and that an economic panel would be held Friday. A separate political source, however, said they “wouldn’t be surprised” at the rumor.
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.