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23 Jan, 2024 15:35

Lebanon wants Russia involved in forging Middle East peace

Beirut’s foreign minister has said he is confident Moscow will work towards easing tensions in the region 
Lebanon wants Russia involved in forging Middle East peace

Lebanon hopes that Moscow will play an important role in resolving the current tensions in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said after a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.

Lavrov stressed during talks with Bou Habib that the involvement of other countries, including Lebanon, in the ongoing fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed group Hamas was “unacceptable,” according to the Russian Foreign Ministry press service. He further called for “an immediate ceasefire” in Gaza, stating that the humanitarian crisis in the enclave must be addressed urgently.

The Russian diplomat also assured his counterpart of Moscow’s commitment to Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the ministry added.  

Bou Habib expressed hope that Moscow will “play an important role” in diffusing the situation in the region.  

”Now, it is difficult to talk about any peace process… A war is currently being waged [in Gaza], and armed clashes with the Israeli army in southern Lebanon are taking place,” he told the Rossiya 1 broadcaster.  

However, Bou Habib stressed that he is confident that “if there is any opportunity for peace, Russia will work towards establishing peace in any case.”  

On Monday, the Lebanese foreign minister warned Israel against starting a large-scale conflict with his country, declaring that it “won’t be a picnic for them.” The diplomat was commenting on a statement by Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, who claimed last week that the possibility of a conflict with Beirut “in the coming months is much higher than it was in the past.”  

There have been almost daily exchanges of fire between the Israeli military and Lebanon’s Hezbollah armed group since the IDF started its assault on Gaza in response to the October 7 incursion by Hamas, in which around 1,200 people were killed and some 240 taken hostage.  

Despite describing itself as being “at war” with Israel, Hezbollah has so far avoided a major escalation, arguing that its actions are aimed at tying up IDF forces to prevent their deployment to Gaza.  

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, the death toll from the Israeli strikes and ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave has surpassed 25,000. The UN said last month that 85% of Gaza’s population has been internally displaced, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed.