David Hale who was nominated last June by US president Barack Obama as the next US ambassador to Lebanon blasted Hezbollah over its military involvement in Syria and pledged further economic support for Lebanon at his confirmation hearing in Washington, DC by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
“Hezbollah’s active military support for the Syrian regime contradicts the Baabda Declaration, violates Lebanon’s disassociation policy, and risk Lebanon’s stability,” Hale said
Hale was serving as the US special envoy for Middle East peace was nominated by Obama on June 22 .
Hale took over the Middle East post after veteran peacemaker George Mitchell left in May 2011, disheartened by a lack of progress in the peace talks.
US Secretary of State John Kerry who has been engaged in intensive diplomacy to try to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table appointed former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, as the US special Mideast envoy to shepherd Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Once confirmed by the US Senate Hale will replace current US ambassador Maura Connelly.
During his confirmation hearing, Hale also slammed Hezbollah for putting “its own interests and those of its foreign backers above those of the Lebanese people.” A possible reference to Iran and Syrian ally.
“My mission, if confirmed, will be to do everything possible to support the Lebanese in their policy of disassociation from the Syrian conflict, help them maintain their sovereignty, and ensure that America is helping to meet the humanitarian and economic challenge posed by refugee flows into Lebanon,” he said.
Hale praised the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Army.
“Only with such institutions can Lebanon ever attain stability, sovereignty, and security,” said Hale
Hale also pledged to work with the Lebanese banking community to ensure that it remains a stabilizing force for the economy.
A veteran diplomat, Hale has served in embassies all over the Middle East including in Jordan, where he was ambassador from 2005 to 2008, having moved up from charge d’affaires and deputy chief of mission.
Hale joined the Foreign Service in 1984, and also spent two tours of duty in Lebanon from 1992 to 1994, and then again from 1998 to 2001.
Lebanon is one of the key countries on the frontline of the Syria conflict, having taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
In a related development , outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly described Tuesday the European Union’s decision to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing as a “strong message” against impunity.
She made the statement following a meeting with Hezbollah’s ally Free Patriotic Leader MP Michel Aoun
She reiterated calls for the swift formation of a new government in Lebanon.
In a clear reference to Hezbollah, Connelly regretted what she described as the failure of some parties to respect the Baabda Declaration, saying that Hezbollah’s interference in Syria would “endanger Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability and security.”
Connelly reiterated the commitment of the United States to a stable, sovereign and independent Lebanon.
Update: Central News Agency reported on Wednesday that Connelly will leave Beirut permanently at the end of August and the new ambassador David Hale will arrive in Lebanon on Sep. 1.