On Saturday night, President Michel Aoun dropped a bombshell statement telling French BFM TV news channel his country may be prepared for peace with Israel.
Asked in an exclusive interview with France’s BFM TV whether Lebanon was prepared to make peace with Israel, he stated: “That depends. We have problems with Israel and we have to resolve them first.”
It was a surprising statement by a president whose rise has benefited from a greater than decade-old alliance with Hezbollah, arguably the most powerful military force in the country.
Asked what he thought of the United Arab Emirates’ treaty concluded with Israel last Thursday, he responded that the UAE ‘is an independent country.’
That suggested Aoun wouldn’t be held back from negotiations by any pan-Arab issues.
The implicit invitation for diplomacy came as a rising tide of high-profile figures in Lebanon have accused Israel of the attack on Beirut Port – and Hezbollah for allegedly storing its weapons there and exposing the capital as a target.
It also followed stern words by US Undersecretary of State David Hale from the Beirut Port.
“Whatever happened specifically related to this explosion,” he said, “we can never go back to an era in which anything goes at the ports and borders of Lebanon.”
The explosion killed 178 people, including the wife of the Dutch ambassador, with dozens still missing and thousands wounded.