Canada called for a “peaceful transition” of power in Lebanon as protesters continued to block roads in Beirut and across of the country, amid nationwide protests demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has ruled the country for three decades.
The protests, which were ignited on Oct. 17 by a government proposal to tax WhatsApp calls, led Saad al-Hariri to resign as prime minister last week. There has been no sign of progress yet toward agreement on a new government.
“Canada calls on all Lebanese parties and leaders to reject violence and encourage a peaceful and timely transition to a new government, which respects and responds to the will of the Lebanese people,” Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Barbara Harvey told Radio Canada International in a statement.
“We also urge all parties to respect the Lebanese people’s right to peaceful protest.”
Hariri, who is aligned with Western and Gulf Arab states, continues in a caretaker capacity until the formation of a new government.
“Canada supports the efforts of all those who strive to continue on building a more transparent and effective government in Lebanon and implement necessary political and economic reforms as called for by the Lebanese people,” Harvey said.
President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian allied to the powerful, Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah, has yet to begin the formal consultations with MPs to designate the next prime minister.
Aoun discussed the situation with UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis telling him that once a new Cabinet is formed its priority will be “to follow up on fighting corruption by opening investigations in all state institutions.”
Many schools, universities and businesses were closed on Monday, and in the southern port city of Sidon some shop owners were forced to close by the protesters.
Canada shut down its embassy in Beirut on Oct. 18 due to continuous road closures and demonstrations, Harvey said.
The embassy will be reopened as soon as the security situation allows it, she added. In the meantime, embassy staff have been working remotely.
There are currently 8,440 Canadians registered with the embassy in Beirut through the voluntary Registration of Canadians Abroad service, Harvey said. However, as registration is voluntary, this is not a complete picture of Canadians in the region, she added.
With files from The Associated Press and Reuters