Lebanon President Michel Aoun left open the door for negotiations following allegations his ally Hezbollah had stored weapons at Beirut Port.
Asked in an exclusive interview with France’s BFM television whether Lebanon was ready to make peace with Israel, he responded: “That depends. We have problems with Israel and we have to resolve them first.”
It was a shocking statement by a president whose rise has benefited from a more 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, Aoun responded that the UAE “is an independent country.”
That suggested Aoun would not be held back from negotiations by any pan-Arab considerations.
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.
The explosion killed at least 178 people, including the wife of the Dutch ambassador, with dozens still missing and thousands wounded.
A team of FBI investigators is due to arrive in Lebanon this weekend to take part in an investigation into the massive explosion that devastated Beirut earlier this month.
French investigators are also taking part in the Lebanese-led probe.
The cause of the fire that ignited 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port remains unclear.