Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday became the first foreign minister to visit newly elected Lebanese President Michel Aoun, underscoring the ties between Iran and Aoun’s Hezbollah-backed presidency. The Shiite militant group and predominantly Shiite Iran are close allies.
Speaking alongside his Lebanese counterpart, Zarif said recent political developments in Lebanon can be the key to breaking the deadlock in wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
Noun’s election by Lebanon’s parliament broke a 29-month impasse that saw the country’s two main political blocs, one backed by Saudi Arabia and the other by its regional rival Iran, sabotaging 45 successive attempts to select a president.
Iran’s local allies are arrayed against Saudi Arabia’s allies in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.
“We believe that this unique Lebanese experience can be the key to break the political deadlock in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, in conjunction with the fight against terrorism,” said Zarif.
Aoun also received Syrian state minister of Presidential Affairs Mansour Azzam on Monday who relayed President Bashar Assad’s congratulations to Aoun . Hezbollah is fighting alongside Syrian president Bashar Assad’s forces in the neighboring country’s civil war.
Zarif is accompanied on his visit by an economic delegation as Lebanon and Iran hope to broaden their markets together. Iran is emerging from international economic sanctions regime after a landmark nuclear agreement with world powers was reached in 2015, while Lebanon is looking to revitalize its own lagging economy following two and a half years of political crisis.
Zarif meets with Saudi-backed Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri Tuesday.