File photo: Lebanese President Michel Aoun with caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati. (Photo credit: NNA)
Lebanese caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati, currently the designated PM, following his recent re-election by parliament, submitted a draft cabinet list to President Michel Aoun on 29 June, after holding non-binding consultations with parliamentary blocs.
Aoun arrived into Baabda Presidential Palace with a white envelope containing the draft list.
“In light of non-binding parliamentary consultations that I conducted yesterday, I found that options are narrow and time very important,” Mikati stated.
Mikati said he had tackled ideas presented during consultations, and had visited the President and handed him the government list that he felt best suited Lebanon’s current circumstances.
President Aoun would study the list and give him his feedback, Mikati said.
Depending on the president’s answer, the cabinet with either be approved or will pass through further rounds of negotiation with parliamentary blocs to create a new draft line-up.
The PM-designate said that he seeks to form a government “that can carry out its duty, and deal with the issues of border demarcations with Israel, have talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and manage the electricity project with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.”
Border demarcation talks
Indirect negotiations between Israel and Lebanon over their shared maritime borders restarted earlier this month after Tel Aviv deployed a European gas extraction vessel inside Lebanon’s territorial waters, seeking to construct an extraction rig over the Karish natural gas field.
Weeks later, the UK-owned Stena Icemax drilling ship also crossed the disputed maritime line 29 to operate three kilometers from the Lebanese mainland.
The Karish gas field is located inside Lebanese territorial waters, under line 29, the southernmost line which Lebanon claims as its maritime border.
During a speech earlier this month, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that the resistance is “militarily and financially capable of preventing Israel from extracting gas from the Karish field,” and that “no measures can protect Israel’s floating platform.”
Electricity import agreement and the IMF
On 8 April, the Lebanese government reached an agreement with the IMF after accepting a series of economic and banking sector reforms put forward by the organization.
The final deal to import gas to Lebanon from Egypt through Syria was signed by officials from the three countries on 21 June in Beirut, Lebanon.
The plan to import energy to Lebanon from Egypt and Jordan via Syria was brokered by the US just after Hezbollah sought to import Iranian fuel to avert the man-made fuel shortage plaguing the country.
The IMF recently refused to finance the project.
To this day, Washington has yet to issue a sanctions waiver to remove liability to US sanctions under the Caesar Act for the countries involved in the deal.
The so-called Caesar Act, passed by the US congress in 2019, prohibits individuals and companies from conducting any business with the government of Syria.
Hezbollah has repeatedly warned that promises made by the US are false and will never come to fruition.
To date, the Lebanese state has ignored lucrative infrastructure offers from Russia, China, and Iran, despite the compounding crises affecting the nation.
Lebanon’s multiple crises have seen over 80 percent of the population plunge below the poverty line, a currency loss of over 95 percent of its value, and fuel shortages that leave most of the country with no access to electricity.