Bassil Talks Army, Oil with Qatar FM as Latter Says Lebanon-Gulf Ties Improving

Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Wednesday discussed the issue of equipping the army and cooperation in the oil and gas sector with his visiting Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani.

“Our ties with Qatar have always been good and we don’t forget what we were offered during the 2006 aggression and the hosting of the Doha Conference or Qatar’s financial and economic support,” said Bassil during a joint press conference with the Qatari visitor.

“We discussed the future and the role of the Lebanese in Qatar and the investments of the Qataris in Lebanon, especially in the oil and gas sector. We are also seeking to launch oil and gas projects and Qatar has expertise in this field,” Bassil added.

“We also discussed the issue of the Lebanese army, because Qatar understands the difficulties that Lebanon is facing in its fight against terrorism through its army, which lacks equipment, and we hope to hear a unified Lebanese and Arab voice in support of the army,” the caretaker minister went on to say.

The Qatari minister for his part said his country “appreciates the policy that Lebanon has endorsed towards the regional issues and its humanitarian role in hosting the Syrian refugees.”

He also hoped the new government will be formed quickly “so that the economy can be boosted” and in order for Lebanon “to return to being a destination for Gulf tourists,” noting that “there is positive progress regarding the Lebanese-Gulf ties.”

The Qatari minister’s visit to Lebanon comes a few days after a similar one by a senior Saudi delegation led by Mecca Governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal.

Michel Aoun’s election as Lebanon’s 13th president after two and a half years of presidential void has raised hopes that Lebanon can begin tackling challenges including a stagnant economy, a moribund political class and the influx of more than a million Syrian refugees.

In addition to pledges of economic growth and security, Aoun said in his oath of office that Lebanon must work to ensure Syrian refugees “can return quickly” to their country.

Aoun also pledged to endorse an “independent foreign policy” and to protect Lebanon from “the fires burning across the region.”