Lebanese president meets with El-Sisi in Cairo

Newly elected Lebanese President Michel Aoun arrived in Egypt on Monday, a day after he defended Hezbollah's refusal to give up its arms in media comments that underlined his unabated support for the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group.

Aoun was speaking on the eve of his first visit to Egypt for talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.

The two sides "agreed on the need to stand together against the dangers of terrorism", Sisi said, adding that Egypt was ready "to support the capabilities of Lebanon's army and its various security bodies".

"We also discussed the current ongoing preparations executed for launching the upcoming Arab Summit that will take place in Jordan".

In October 2016, Lebanon's parliament elected Aoun as president, ending a power vacuum that left the presidential office vacant for more than two years.

Mainly Sunni Saudi Arabia, a fierce regional rival of Iran, froze the aid deal over what it said was Hezbollah's dominance in Lebanon.

A United Nations official has shot back at Lebanon's president for backing the arming of Hezbollah, saying that Resolution 1701, reached as part of a ceasefire after the 2006 war between Israel and the terror group, prohibits the country from being allowed weapons. Aoun, whose Christian party is allied with Hezbollah, said earlier that Iran's support for the group "could continue indefinitely".

His remarks could spark tension with Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional rival.

Aoun's visit to Egypt also comes amid a lingering rift between Egypt and Saudi Arabia over conflicting agendas, including Syria and Yemen.

The Saudi move appeared to have been in response to Egypt's support of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria that was fiercely opposed by Riyadh. "I really appreciate President Aoun's invitation to visit Lebanon, and I will be there soon", Al-Sisi concluded in his speech.

The Egyptian and Lebanese presidents have agreed to bolster Cairo-Beirut cooperation to respond to joint concerns about the threat of terrorism in the Arab world.

  • Leroy Wright