Iran’s foreign minister toured Lebanon’s border with Israel Friday during a visit to the Arab nation, and was documented looking out at the Jewish state his regime regards as an archenemy.
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian took the tour with a number of Lebanese parliamentarians and members of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, after meeting with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
Amir-Abdollahian said Nasrallah assured him that “the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance [to Israel] are in their best condition ever,” according to Iranian media reports.
He said the two also discussed the recent Iranian-Saudi deal to restore diplomatic ties, and its effect on the region.
At the lookout point toward Israel from the town of Maroun al-Ras, Amir-Abdollahian said “positive developments in the region will lead to the collapse of the Zionist entity,” adding that “Zionists understand only strength.”
The minister said Iran continues to “support the resistance in the face of the Zionist enemy” and will back Lebanon “even in difficult days.” He also planted a tree in the area.
The Iranian diplomat’s visit could be seen as something of a response to Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s trip to Turkmenistan last week, where he opened an embassy just a few miles from the border with Iran.
שר החוץ האיראני אללהיאן זכה גם לסיור VIP בחסות חיזבאללה באזור מארון א-ראס בדרום לבנון בקרבת הגבול עם ישראל. צופה בעניין pic.twitter.com/TvfIgCHBiB
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On Thursday, visiting Beirut, Amir-Abdollahian urged the government there to overcome political deadlock and elect a president.
“We will support any election and agreement reached between all Lebanese sides… and we call on other foreign parties to respect the choice of the Lebanese without interfering in the country’s affairs,” he added.
Lebanon, in the throes of a crushing economic crisis, has been without a president for almost six months amid deadlock between entrenched political barons.
A caretaker cabinet with limited powers has been at the helm since May last year after legislative polls gave no side a clear majority.
The Shiite Hezbollah, which holds huge sway over political life in Lebanon, has endorsed pro-Syrian Sleiman Frangieh for the presidency.
Before that endorsement, Hezbollah and its allies had spoiled their ballots during 11 unsuccessful attempts in parliament to elect a successor to president Michel Aoun, with some lawmakers accusing the group of obstructing the ballot.
“Lebanese officials and all political parties and sides in the country have the capacity and the competence to reach a consensus on electing the president,” said Amir-Abdollahian, on his second visit to Beirut this year.
Countries including France, the United States, and Saudi Arabia hold regular consultations on Lebanon. Their representatives met in February in Paris to discuss the crisis, without achieving any tangible progress.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has warned that the next president cannot be close to Washington, which he has accused of “intervening” in Lebanon.
Frangieh is a personal friend of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has long been considered among Hezbollah’s preferred choices for president.
Before Hezbollah-backed Aoun was elected president in 2016, the Shiite group had adopted similar spoiling tactics, contributing to a vacancy lasting more than two years.
Iran’s top diplomat said he and Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bou Habib discussed “comprehensive cooperation between Iran and Lebanon” and Iran’s readiness “to further strengthen the ties in economy, trade, tourism, science, technology and other fields.”
Agencies contributed to this report.