Becky Andersen: I have with me the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis who is urging Lebanese authorities to act decisively and quickly to form a new government while maintaining security and peace. I want to talk to you about what you mean by that but before I do I just want to get a reaction from you to the news of President Aoun asking Mr. Hariri to stay on. Yesterday’s man it seems is no longer yesterday’s man.
SCL Jan Kubis: First of all, yes indeed that was a little bit unexpected I would say to many, maybe not to all but to many. And yes indeed what is important is to have firm authorities in place to be able to manage the situation. But before going into that, perhaps if I may two-three sentences. First of all when introducing the topic, you said the country is divided, the country is going into a very crisis period. I would like to state something to the contrary. The big picture is that the people are united. The people that may be 1/4th of the population went to the street requesting change. They were the factor of change. They already managed to deliver a lot because of being united. And the authorities, although they don’t hear all the requests and don’t respond to all of them, at least they try to accommodate something. And the security forces as well, they behaved largely responsibly. That they need to act more against these thugs that tried to attack the peaceful demonstrators but have a look, this is a completely different situation in comparison with some other countries, be it in the region or in the world.
Becky Andersen: I want to talk about that because you make a very very good point. As we see the sort of success, as it were, and the concessions provided by this government, the success of these protests, so we see a very different picture in Iraq for example at present. Lets just stick though where we are for the time being. You tweeted last night after Saad’s resignation that security forces should maintain law and order and should take action against those who instigate violence. Your words to a certain extent echoing those of the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who said pretty much the same thing. We did see (inaudible) on the street, you know you make a very good point that this is a country which has been polarized for so long and now very united on the street. Whose responsibility is that? The Interior Minister, the Defense Minister, these people who have effectively just lost their jobs?
SCL Jan Kubis: have a look, it starts at the top. You have HE the President, who is among others the Commander in Chief, and then you have all the security forces starting with the Lebanese Armed Forces. They are in the streets, they are to provide security for the peaceful protesters and they are to provide a barrier between them and those that are trying to attack them. All sorts of groups, maybe politically motivated, and this is my message. This is the message that I am delivering to leaders of different political factions as well, it doesn’t matter whether they are in the Government or in the opposition.
Becky Andersen: Are they listening, what is their response? How do read what is going on in their minds? These are tough times for these hereby many political oligarchy?
SCL Jan Kubis: They know that business as usual, business as before is not possible…
Becky Andersen: they do? They know that?
SCL Jan Kubis: They know that. They also know that it is extremely important to keep and maintain basic stability, law and order. It means that they need to encourage their supporters not to instigate violence and to work for very quick creation of the new government.
Becky Andersen: It will be very interesting to hear from the leader of Hizbullah, whom I believe is due to speak on Friday given that last Friday he said that he does not want to see the end of this government and should these protests continue, that he could send his supporters to the street and that would change the equation?
SCL Jan Kubis: I hope it will not be necessary. I hope that we will now see a very rapid process of forming of the government but a government that again must be not only acceptable to the political classes and that eventually will have to get the confidence from the Parliament but it must be the government that will get the confidence from the street, from the people. That is what is very important. And again the political leaders by and large they understand this.
Becky Andersen: Let us talk about Iraq. This is important. Protests are storming in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday, furious of the reported killings of 14 demonstrators in Karbala a day earlier. The town’s governor and police denied that anyone was killed. Iraqis have protested for weeks now, angry at alleged government corruption, a lack of jobs and basic services, which all sounds very familiar to the demands and the concerns that people have here and yet we are seeing quite a different picture out of Iraq. We have seen deaths, we have seen huge amounts of injuries. What is your perception of what is going on and what is your message to leadership there?
SCL Jan Kubis: It is a very tragic and it is a very sad story because basically these two countries – I left Iraq only at the end of last year when I was for almost four years responsible for the UN operation there. And they had the same intentions to accommodate the needs of the people , to provide services, to be more inclusive, to be more just, and what happened they failed to deliver. I am sorry they failed to deliver maybe because of the clinch of political forces that didn’t allow the Prime Minister to act as he wanted to act. This is somehow a situation that is similar to what is here but it is also a big lesson for Lebanon and for the leaders of Lebanon but also for all the people of Lebanon: Don’t allow yourself to be provoked, don’t provoke as well and for the security forces do not use force against peaceful protesters at any cost. At the same time what is needed is that the economy of this country starts working. What is needed is that the government acts on the reform program, that is the beginning, only the first steps, but the reform program that they approved a while ago and that the Parliament legislates and that they finish very quickly the job by creating a government that will respond to the concerns and needs of the people and will be credible for them.
Becky Andersen: Thank you, it was a pleasure having you on as we remind ourselves that Lebanon is the third most indepted country in the world, the youth unemployment rate here almost 20 percent and the protests have only compounded the economic woes to a certain extent. We are hoping to see the banks back open on Friday, we are hoping not to see a runover of those banks, we hope that this process is a good one and that things continue. But there is a big economic issue.
SCL Jan Kubis: I have a message from the Governor of the Central Bank. The Central bank will support the banking sector and will provide the necessary backing of the banks and servicing their clients.
Becky Andersen: that’s the same man who told me a couple of nights ago that this country was just days away from economic collapse should there not be immediate action and some sort of political solution. And we are beginning to see that.
SCL Jan Kubis: we see the immediate action prompted by the shock therapy of Prime Minister Hariri who resigned.
Becky Andersen: We have to leave it there, it was a pleasure Sir.
SCL Jan Kubis: thank you