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Kasoulides and Lebanon’s new foreign minister to meet soon

15 February, 2014

Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides called his new counterpart Gebran Bassil just hours after the announcement of a new government in Lebanon, and the two expressed their wish for a meeting the earliest possible, within the framework of the cordial and close cooperation of the two neighbouring countries.
Bassil was Energy Minister in the previous interim administration.
A new government was announced on Saturday, breaking a ten-month political deadlock during which spillover violence from neighbouring Syria worsened internal instability.
A caretaker government has run the country since former Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned in March as parties aligned with the Shi'ite Hezbollah movement and a Sunni-led rival bloc pursued a power struggle exacerbated by their support for opposing sides in Syria's almost three-year-old civil war.
"A government in the national interest was formed in a spirit of inclusivity," new Prime Minister Tammam Salam declared on live television.
He said he hoped the new government would allow Lebanon to hold presidential elections before President Michel Suleiman's mandate expires in May and finally conduct parliamentary polls that were postponed last year due to the political impasse.
Parliament designated the Sunni lawmaker as prime minister in April 2013, but he had been unable to form a cabinet for months due to rivalries between the Hezbollah-dominated March 8 bloc and the March 14 alliance, led by the Sunni moderate Saad al-Hariri’s Future Party.
Gebran Bassil, from the March 8 bloc, becomes foreign minister. Former Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, also from March 8, takes the finance portfolio. Nouhad Machnouk, a March 14 legislator, was named interior minister.
The Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a Hezbollah ally, had insisted former Energy Minister Bassil keep his post. The dispute was finally resolved with the appointment of Arthur Nazarian, from the FPM-aligned Tashnag, a small Armenian party.