Lebanon appointed Charbel Wehbe as foreign minister after Nassif Hitti resigned from office, saying the country was in danger of becoming a “failed state” and that the government had shown a lack of reformist will .
“I participated in this government on the basis of the fact that I have an employer named Lebanon, and I have found in my country many employers and conflicting interests,” Hitti said in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister Hassan Diab, released Monday.
“If they do not unite around the interests of the Lebanese people and do not save them, then the boat, God forbid, will sink with everyone on board.”
In his resignation letter, Hitti rebuked “the lack of a vision for Lebanon because I believe in it as a free, independent and capable nation” and the lack of “a real will to achieve structural reforms. … That our national society asks and the international community asks us to do it ”.
“Today Lebanon is becoming a failed state,” he writes.
The letter also implicitly criticized Hezbollah, one of the main supporters of Diab’s government, calling for the need for Lebanon to strengthen its ties with the “Arab community” and to be “shining in its Arab environment”.
Lebanon’s once strong ties with Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, have been undermined by the growing role of the Iran-backed group in Lebanese politics and in regional conflicts, including the war in Yemen .
Hours after Hitti’s resignation, President Michel Aoun and Diab signed a decree appointing Charbel Wehbe as the new foreign minister.
Wehbe is Aoun’s diplomatic adviser and previously was director of political affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Coup to the government
Hitti’s resignation is the biggest blow to date to the six-month-old Diab government, which has struggled to deliver on promises to implement sweeping reforms following massive protests against the establishment last year.
Although the veteran diplomat is the first member of Diab’s cabinet to resign, the government has already seen two high-profile resignations from a team negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout. Both cited the same lack of will to reform because of the interests of the country’s political and financial elite.
Last week, Hitti expressed his frustration with the Diab government on a popular talk show, saying it “drained my professional and diplomatic credit.”
Diab’s government has also faced repeated calls for resignation. But he defended staying in power, saying that a replacement would take a long time, which he said would amount to “a crime against the Lebanese. [people] ».
Diplomatic hook with France
Hitti’s resignation follows a diplomatic incident involving Diab and Lebanon’s most powerful Western ally, France, after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Beirut last month.
A few days after the visit, a tweet from Diab’s official Twitter account indicated that Le Drian was bringing “nothing new” and had “a lack of knowledge of the path of government reform”.
“The international decision so far is not to help Lebanon,” he said.
The tweet was then deleted. Diab also met a delegation from the French Embassy and reportedly expressed appreciation for France’s historic ties to Lebanon.
Hitti was chosen by Gebran Bassil, the former foreign minister and head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), which has the largest bloc in parliament and was founded by President Michel Aoun.
Reports in local media indicated that Hitti’s resignation was in part due to frustration over Bassil’s continued grip on key ministry decisions. Bassil was reportedly unhappy with Hitti’s decision to resign.
An FPM source told Al Jazeera that Hitti’s decision to step down was his, regardless of the party’s stance.
“He has his own reasons,” the source said. “His statement today was clear and shows that it had nothing to do with the speech that was given. “