FILE – Lebanese Armed Forces Commander General Joseph Aoun. (Photo credit: AFP)
The commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), General Joseph Aoun, travelled to Qatar on 10 December at the invitation of the Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani.
According to the LAF official Twitter account, Aoun is in Qatar to “discuss ways [for Doha] to continue supporting the army.”
غادر قائد الجيش العماد جوزاف عون لبنان متوجّهاً إلى دولة قطر حيث يلبّي دعوة نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الخارجية القطري، الشيخ محمد بن عبد الرحمن آل ثاني، وذلك للبحث في سبل استمرار دعم الجيش خلال هذه المرحلة.#الجيش_اللبناني #LebaneseArmy pic.twitter.com/F1c8l1gZd0
— الجيش اللبناني (@LebarmyOfficial) December 10, 2022
Earlier this year, Qatar pledged $60 million for the cash-strapped LAF to support the salaries of Lebanese soldiers.
Aoun’s trip to Qatar comes a mere two days after Lebanon’s parliament failed for the ninth consecutive time to elect a new president, as divisions among political forces grow ever larger.
According to numerous reports over the past several months, the LAF chief is the preferred choice of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, and the US to serve as Lebanon’s new president.
Two weeks ago, Arabic media reports revealed that Lebanese officials who recently visited the Gulf monarchy were told by a senior Qatari official that Doha is ready to “provide aid for Lebanon” if Aoun is elected president by parliament.
Lebanese daily Al Akhbar on Saturday revealed that Aoun is also expected to visit Saudi Arabia “in the event that foreign contacts succeed in persuading the Saudi crown prince to become more involved in the Lebanese file.”
But recent backdoor negotiations have reportedly shown the interfering powers that General Aoun cannot be imposed on a majority of Lebanon’s political forces. Nevertheless, sources say that Paris is moving forward with convincing Christian parties, while Doha is aiming to reach an understanding with Hezbollah.
The Lebanese presidency, which has been reserved for the country’s Christian Maronite sect since the National Pact of 1943, has remained empty since the end of Michel Aoun’s term in September after six years in power.
Last year, The Cradle columnist Radwan Mortada was sentenced in absentia by a military court to one-year imprisonment for an investigation that revealed the LAF commander’s responsibility in the Beirut Port blast of 2020.
“General Joseph Aoun uses the military court as a weapon to fight those mentioning him to suppress freedom of opinion and expression. My words about the army command’s responsibility in the Beirut port explosion greatly angered Joseph Aoun, so he decided to make his own law,” Mortada said last November.