Lebanon’s negotiations with IMF likely to start in November -foreign minister

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The Lebanese foreign minister said on Sunday that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund would likely start in November, Lebanon’s Al Jadeed TV reported.

Economy Minister Amin Salam had said on Friday in an interview with Reuters that the new government aimed to make progress towards starting full negotiations for an IMF deal by the end of this year or early next but was not expecting funds to be dispersed before elections in March.

Lebanon is experiencing its worst-ever financial crisis and an IMF deal is widely seen as the only way for it to secure aid.

Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib also spoke about the maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel, telling Al Jadeed that he was “optimistic about reaching an agreement”.

The two countries are in a dispute over the delineation of their territorial waters and negotiations could lead to Lebanon being able to unlock valuable gas reserves.

They have been holding on-and-off U.S.-mediated talks to try to resolve the issue.

Bou Habib also said the Iranian nuclear negotiations have an impact on Lebanon.

He added that talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia “will reflect positively” on Lebanon.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said in Beirut earlier this month that the talks between Tehran and Riyadh aimed at reducing tensions have gone a “good distance”.

Iran and Saudi Arabia, the leading Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim powers in the Middle East, have been rivals for years and cut diplomatic ties in 2016.

Bou Habib said there was no close relationship with Saudi Arabia at the moment. “Improving the relationship isn’t in our hands.”

Saudi Arabia, which once spent heavily in Lebanon, has shunned it for years because of Iran-backed Shi’ite Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanese affairs.

Reuters

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