World

Amid regional tensions, U.S. warship makes brief goodwill visit to Beirut

AFP-JIJI

The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Ramage docked briefly in Lebanon, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said Sunday, amid heightened regional tensions.

The Arleigh-Burke-class vessel, capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, stopped Saturday for a “one-day goodwill visit on the sidelines of its participation in ongoing efforts to ensure freedom of navigation and free-flow commerce in the eastern Mediterranean,” a statement from the embassy said.

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard and Vice Adm. James Malloy hosted “an on-board reception for U.S. and Lebanese officials,” it added.

During the reception, the vice admiral and ambassador underscored “the ongoing commitment of the United States to be a strong and enduring partner for the Lebanese Armed Forces, with the goals of enhancing military-to-military cooperation and promoting security and stability in the region,” according to the statement.

“This remarkable U.S. ship, docked in this remarkable Lebanese city, speaks volumes about the partnership between the U.S. and Lebanese militaries,” Richard said.

The U.S. is currently engaged in a stand-off with Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Shiite movement Hezbollah, which has been slapped with U.S. sanctions and classified as a “terrorist” organization by Washington.

Hezbollah is a key player in Lebanese politics, represented both in parliament and the Cabinet.

The movement is militarily involved in the war in neighboring Syria, having sent fighters to the aid of the Iran-allied regime.

In July, the U.S. imposed sanctions on three senior Hezbollah officials in Lebanon, including two lawmakers, in the first such move against members of parliament.

At the end of August, powerful U.S. financial sanctions were imposed on the Jammal Trust Bank in Lebanon, which was accused of acting as a key financial institution for Hezbollah, an archfoe of U.S. ally Israel.

The ship’s docking comes as tensions spike between Hezbollah and Israel, including an exchange of cross-border fire on Sept. 1.

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