The official ceremony on Friday to mark Tripoli’s selection as the Arab capital of culture in 2024 was an occasion for caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who hails from the northern city, to bemoan the persisting deadlock in the country’s institutions, starting with the presidential vacuum.

“The state of paralysis that we are experiencing today is nothing but history repeating itself. We went through it previously and we’re going through it today,” Mikati said, addressing a crowd of Tripoli’s residents, and Lebanese and Arab officials. “Some of our politicians do not learn from the mistakes of the past, but rather repeat them, causing great harm to the nation and the citizens under delicate and dangerous circumstances.”

The harm, he said, comes under delicate and dangerous circumstances. “Whether in terms of the living conditions resulting from the financial and economic situation, the security situation resulting from the repercussions of the Gaza war and the ongoing Israeli aggression in the South, or the burdens imposed by the Syrian refugee issue on every village, city and neighborhood in Lebanon.”

“Lebanon, which embraced them (Syrian migrants), is now calling for a solution to their displacement crisis by securing their dignified and safe return to their homeland,” Mikati said. He stressed that the Lebanese delegation to the Brussels conference on Syrian refugees on May 27 “will carry this file” and expose its repercussions on Lebanon and “demands that European countries assume their direct responsibilities” in resolving the issue.

Mikati also stressed “from Tripoli,” the poorest city on the Mediterranean, that “there is no place for despair in our hearts.”