March 3, 2024

Iran has never sought war in the region, the country’s foreign minister has said on a visit to Lebanon to discuss Israel’s war on Gaza and its impact on regional security.

“Iran and Lebanon confirm that war is not the solution, and that we absolutely never sought to expand it,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-abdollahian said at a news conference alongside Abdallah Bou Habib, Lebanon’s foreign minister, in Beirut on Saturday.

However, he threatened that any widespread attack by Israel on Lebanon would be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “last day”.

His visit to Beirut came as the United States and Israel have continued to blame Iran and its aligned armed groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen for escalating tensions in the region via attacks on US and Israeli targets.

“After months of aggression by the Zionist regime [Israel] in Gaza and the West Bank, Tel Aviv has not achieved any of its stated goals,” Amir-abdollahian told reporters.

“The continuation of America’s support for the Zionist regime and for Netanyahu will have no results but a final defeat,” he said.

During his visit, the Iranian diplomat met Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, speaker of Lebanon’s Parliament, Ziad Nakhale, the secretary-general of the Islamic Jihad Movement, and some Hamas officials. He also met Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

‘Arab problem that requires an Arab solution’

After his meetings in Lebanon, Amir-abdollahian is scheduled to visit the Syrian capital Damascus, where Iran also allegedly wields influence over other groups. He is then due to head to Qatar, which has been the main mediator between Israel and Hamas.

Some political analysts viewed the Iranian foreign minister’s trip tour to Lebanon and other regional countries as a way of influencing the outcome of negotiations on the Gaza war.

Iran was not represented in Saudi Arabia at a meeting on Thursday, where ministers from Arab nations discussed initiatives for Gaza after the war ends.

“Interestingly, the exclusion of Iran and inclusion of Qatar is something for us to take note of because the Saudis were saying that this is an Arab problem that requires Arab solutions. Iran, of course, wants to have a say in what transpires once the war is over,” Mehran Kamrava, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera.

On Saturday, Amir-abdollahian said a political solution was the only way to end the Gaza conflict, and that Tehran was in talks with Riyadh on the issue.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, right, and Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-abdollahian in Beirut, Lebanon [File: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

Reporting from Beirut, Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr said that this the Iranian foreign minister’s third trip to the region since the war began and, this time, he stressed that Palestinians themselves must decide their future.

Moreover, Khodr pointed out that his trip to Lebanon also coincided with the Israeli threat to widen its attacks on Hezbollah if it does not get security guarantees along the border.

After 17 years of relative calm along the Israel-Lebanon border, Hezbollah and the Israeli army began launching attacks in the area on October 8, a day after Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,100 people there, and Israel launched a relentless assault on Gaza that has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians.

Hezbollah officials have said they will stop attacking Israeli military posts when Israel’s attack on Gaza ends.

On Friday, Amir-abdollahian told reporters in Beirut that “Hezbollah and the resistance in Lebanon have courageously and wisely carried out their deterring and effective role”.

He said Tehran will continue “its strong support to the resistance in Lebanon, as we consider Lebanon’s security as the security of Iran and the region”.

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