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BEIRUT: The Saudi and Kuwaiti ambassadors to Lebanon, Walid Bukhari and Abdul-Al Sulaiman Al-Qenaei, have returned to Beirut, arriving on Friday afternoon amid renewed hopes of a reset in diplomatic relations for the country besieged.
They landed at Beirut airport less than 24 hours after the Kingdom and Kuwait announced their envoys would return to Lebanon, sparking optimism about a fresh start with Gulf Arab states after a five-day diplomatic boycott month.
The Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian, said: “This decision establishes a new phase of hope and confidence in Lebanon’s Arab future, identity, belonging and cooperation with the Gulf countries. and the rest of the brotherly Arab states.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf states withdrew their ambassadors from Lebanon in October 2021 to protest insulting statements by former Information Minister George Qordahi regarding the war in Yemen.
On Thursday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry announced Boukhari’s return to Beirut. The ministry said the decision was taken in response to “appeals and pleas from moderate national political forces in Lebanon, and in confirmation of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s statement on the government’s commitment to take the necessary and required measures. to strengthen cooperation with the Kingdom and the GCC countries and to end all political, military and security activities affecting the Kingdom and the GCC countries.
The ministry stressed the importance of Lebanon returning to its Arab origins, represented by its national institutions and agencies, so that the country enjoys peace and security and its people enjoy stability.
On Friday, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry announced the return of its ambassador to Beirut in response to “the Lebanese government’s commitment to stop all aggressive activities and offensive interventions towards Arab countries”.
Mikati stressed in a tweet that Lebanon is proud of its Arab affiliation. “Lebanon is committed to the best relations with the Gulf States, which have been and will remain a support for us,” he noted.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam phoned Boukhari, praising “the distinguished brotherly role that the Kingdom has played and continues to play towards Lebanon and the Lebanese”.
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said, “Saudi Arabia has proven that Lebanon is in its heart and conscience, and will never leave it.”
The Future Movement said it hoped the decision would be a step on the way to opening a new page in Lebanon-Gulf relations, stressing the need not to use Lebanon as a platform. political, security and media form to insult the states and leaders of the Gulf. .
The return of diplomatic relations in the Gulf coincided with the announcement of a staff-level agreement between Lebanon and the International Monetary Fund, which also contributed to a sudden wave of positivity.
On Friday, the IMF published the full text of the draft agreement with the Lebanese government.
Deputy Prime Minister Saadeh Al-Shami said: “A preliminary agreement has been reached for an extended four-year financing facility. This economic and financial reform program aims to stimulate growth and create employment opportunities and put Lebanon on the road to recovery after the economy has contracted by more than 60% in the last two years, that the local currency has collapsed, that inflation has reached very high levels and that poverty is reaching unprecedented levels.
The deal requires approval from the IMF, the Lebanese government and parliament, including on urgent laws that need to be approved before getting final IMF board approval for the program.
Al-Shami noted: “This program is based on creating an environment conducive to economic activity by implementing the necessary structural reforms to restore growth and secure employment opportunities, restructure the banking sector to be able to restore its role in financing the economy and improve financial to ensure debt sustainability while increasing spending in the social sectors and infrastructure.
He added: “It is also about reforming the public sector and its institutions, especially the electricity sector, to ensure a better supply of electricity, which helps to ease the burden on citizens and revive the movement. economy, in addition to unifying the exchange rate, improving governance and fighting corruption with the technical assistance of the IMF.
“The longer we delay in implementing the required reforms, the higher the cost will be for the national economy and, therefore, for the citizens,” Al-Shami warned.
“We hope that the preconditions set by the IMF will be met in order to have an approval of the program,” Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh told Reuters, describing the agreement as “a positive event for Lebanon which will contribute to the unification of exchange”. rates,” noting that the Central Bank cooperated and facilitated the mission.
Speaking to the Middle East News Agency, Salameh said: “Central Bank gold reserves stood at $17.547 billion in February, so Lebanon maintains its position with the second largest gold reserves in the Arab region, with an estimated wealth of around 286 tons of gold.
He added: “In February, total foreign currency cash reserves were $12.748 billion and the equity portfolio was $4.197 billion and includes Euro bonds, a slight increase from compared to January.”
Salameh said, “Remittances from Lebanese working abroad amounted to around $6.4 billion in 2021.”
He added: “The crisis that hit the financial sector in Lebanon is addressed in the recovery plan which is being prepared by the Lebanese government in cooperation with the IMF.”
Salameh said: “The rumors about Central Bank bankruptcy are false; the bank exercises its role entrusted to it under article 70 of the Currency and Credit Code and will continue to do so, despite the losses that have afflicted the financial sector in Lebanon.