Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Tuesday that Lebanon needs a "new direction" to restore trust in the country, reiterating Cairo's full support for the country in meetings with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and other key political figures.
Shoukry told Aoun at the Baabda presidential palace in Beirut, one day after the Lebanese government resigned over public fury following last week's Beirut explosion, that Cairo is working to swiftly meet the needs of the Lebanese people, providing airlift and sealift for the delivery of aid, and ready to help in the reconstruction of the country.
The massive warehouse explosion, the biggest in the city's history, killed at least 163 people, injured 6,000 and left as many as 300,000 homeless.
"We have been instructed to work closely through Egyptian government bodies to fulfil the needs and priorities of Lebanon at the earliest possible opportunity," Shoukry told reporters after the talks, according to Al-Ahram Arabic news website.
Egypt has launched an airlift to offer humanitarian aid and relief supplies and a sealift to help in the reconstruction of blast-hit Lebanon, Shoukry was quoted as saying.
The sealift the minister referred to includes a "giant vessel carrying a shipment of glass, aluminium and marble set to arrive in Beirut within days to help restore blast-damaged buildings," Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon Yasser Alawi told Ahram Online.
The shipment, prepared by the Federation of Egyptian Industries, will help in rebuilding the 200,000 apartments that were shattered in the blast, the ambassador said.
Meetings with Lebanese political powers
Following his meeting with the Lebanese president, Shoukry held a series of meetings with Lebanese political leaders representing different parties and factions.
The foreign minister held a meeting with Lebanese parliament speaker and leader of Shia Amal Movement Nabih Berry, in which they discussed ways to help Lebanon to overcome its latest crisis.
“Egypt will always be supportive; we stand with Lebanon and we will continue to work in order to overcome the crisis,” Shoukry told a press conference following the meeting.
“We will give all support to Lebanon, especially in the rebuilding process. We hope that Lebanon overcomes its consecutive crises,” he added.
The foreign minister also met with Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, to discuss recent developments.
He also held a meeting with former Lebanese prime minister and leader of the Future Movement Saad El-Hariri, who expressed his appreciation for Egypt’s support for Lebanon.
Shoukry also met with former prime ministers Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam.
Shoukry told Lebanese media that Egypt is in contact with several international partners to provide more support for the country. But he said that this support will not be fully provided unless there is a "new direction" that will restore confidence in Lebanon and pave the way for a new era on a different basis, putting the interest of the Lebanese people before any other considerations.
In addition, he met separately with the leader of the Kataeb Party Samy Gemayel and the leader of the Marada movement Suleiman Frangieh, discussing the current situation.
Shoukry also discussed by phone the latest developments in the country with Samir Geagea, the leader of Christian party the Lebanese Forces.
Visiting Egyptian field hospital in Beirut
During his visit, Shoukry toured an Egyptian field hospital treating victims of the blast, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The six-clinic facility opened its doors to the victims one hour after the explosion took place.
The Lebanese people took to the streets and stormed government ministries earlier this week in protest at what they described as the ineptness and corruption of the political elite.
The Lebanese president accepted the resignation of the cabinet, asking it to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.
Lebanese officials said the devastating blast last week was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at Beirut port for six years after being confiscated from a ship.
Countries around the world have rallied to offer support to Lebanon, providing aid packages, rescue and medical teams, and humanitarian aid.
Egypt has taken several steps to provide assistance to Lebanon, including launching an airlift of medical supplies and other aid to support the country.
Cairo has so far sent three planes carrying aid supplies to Beirut.