Lebanon’s foreign minister has summoned the US Ambassador Dorothy Shea to tell her that she should not interfere in the country's internal affairs, following an interview in which Shea criticized the Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization, according to Lebanese news outlet MTV.
Lebanese officials had apologized to Shea on Saturday, after a judge issued an order banning her from being able to speak to local media outlets following an Al Hadath interview in which she criticized Hezbollah.
Lebanese officials apologize to the #US ambassador in #Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, after a judge issued an order banning the US diplomat from being able to speak to local media outlets, one day after she criticized #Hezbollah in a public interview.https://t.co/MrshuLLU50 pic.twitter.com/LWw2iR8P80— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) June 28, 2020
The row sparked a row over freedom of speech in the country, with the US Embassy in Lebanon writing: “We believe very much in freedom of expression and the important role a free media plays in the United States and Lebanon. We stand with the Lebanese people.”
We believe very much in freedom of expression and the important role a free media plays in the United States and Lebanon. We stand with the Lebanese people.https://t.co/7IB2d96CJ8— U.S. Embassy Beirut (@usembassybeirut) June 27, 2020
While Lebanese officials appeared to have backtracked on Saturday, the following day MTV reported that Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti had summoned Shea to the embassy for a meeting on Monday.
“Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti has summoned the US ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, and he will meet with her on Monday at 3:00 p.m. to inform her that, according to Vienna Convention, an ambassador must not interfere in the internal affairs of another country, and that her speech must not include incitement of the Lebanese people against other Lebanese people participating in the authority.”
The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties governs the rules of diplomatic relations.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab formed a new government following months of anti-government protests that began in October. While the cabinet is made up of technocrats, it is widely seen as being approved by the Lebanese political elite, including Hezbollah.
The government has been criticized for its handling of the deteriorating economic situation in the country, with former adviser Henri Chaoul saying that there is “no genuine will” to make reforms.