Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, April 28, 2023. AP
Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian began his visit to Lebanon on Wednesday, meeting top officials and expressing Tehran’s readiness to help build power stations in an effort to try to end the Mediterranean country’s prevailing electricity crisis.
Lebanon is in the throes of the worst economic crisis in its modern history, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the small nation’s ruling class. The crisis erupted in October 2019 and has plunged three-quarters of Lebanon’s 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees, into poverty.
Earlier this month, Israel launched rare strikes into southern Lebanon, blaming Palestinian groups after rockets were fired from there at Israel. The attacks were triggered by a surge of Israeli violence against Palestinians during Ramadan after a series of Israeli police raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“We are here today ... to declare again with a loud voice that we support the resistance in Lebanon against the Zionist entity,” Amirabdollahian told a gathering that included several Hezbollah legislators in the border village of Maroun al-Ras.
Amirabdollahian's visit to Lebanon is the first since Iran and Saudi Arabia reached an agreement in China last month to re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after seven years of tensions.
Later Friday, the Iranian diplomat held a news conference at the Iranian Embassy. He said the Riyadh-Tehran agreement will have positive “effects in the region in general.” The two countries will reopen embassies in Tehran and Riyadh “within a few days," he said, adding that he invited his Saudi counterpart to visit Iran and that the invitation was welcomed.
In neighbouring Syria, a pro-government newspaper reported that Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi will begin a two-day visit to Damascus next Wednesday, the first by an Iranian president to the Syrian capital since 2010.
Iran has also been a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad since the uprising that turned into war began in Syria in March 2011.
The pro-government Al-Watan said Raisi would meet with Assad to boost “strategic cooperation” between the two allies. Several agreements and memorandums of understanding would also be signed during the visit.
Asked about Raisi's upcoming visit to Damascus, the Iranian minister only said that "a program and a plan for the visit in the near future" had been prepared, without offering a specific date.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online