Lebanon News

FPM, Future ‘share some thoughts’ in rare meeting

MPs Jean Ogasapian, Jamal Jarrah, Atef Majdalani and Ibrahim Kanaan leave after a meeting at the Parliament in Beirut, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Future Movement MPs and lawmakers from Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc held an ice-breaking meeting Thursday, the first move of its kind in years amid the prevailing political impasse in the country.

The meeting comes in light of a decision Aoun’s bloc made, during its conclave last month, to hold meetings with MPs from various parties in the country regardless of political differences in a bid to facilitate a resumption of activity in the Parliament and other state institutions.

“We discussed a number of draft laws that we consider vital, strategic and essential. ... During these discussions, views and solutions [to the crisis] were proposed,” MP Ibrahim Kanaan, from Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, told reporters after the meeting.

“We did not reach agreements over any issue, but there are efforts to reach common ground and return to institutions. This does not mean that we do not share some ideas,” he added. “We do not aim at reaching a bilateral political agreement with the Future Movement.”

Future MP Atef Majdalani, who took part in the meeting, described the discussions as positive, frank and serious.

“We [Future Movement MPs] stressed the need to energize institutions through the formation of a responsible neutral Cabinet that addresses the living needs of people,” he said.

He added that Future Movement lawmakers highlighted the need for all political parties to adhere to the Baabda Declaration and for Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria.

“We affirmed our commitment to the Constitution ... through the election of a president,” he said. “We shared some thoughts ... and agreed on continuing with more meetings.”

The Future bloc is boycotting legislative sessions that Speaker Nabih Berri has been calling for since June, arguing that the Parliament should only meet over urgent matters in the presence of a resigned government.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has been unable to form a Cabinet since his nomination in April.

Hezbollah and its March 8 allies maintain that a national unity government in which all parties are represented based on their size in Parliament should be formed.

But the Future Movement and other March 14 parties argue that an all-embracing government can only be formed if Hezbollah withdraws its fighters from Syria and adheres to the Baabda Declaration. The Future Movement calls for forming a neutral government if those two conditions are not met.

Earlier, a delegation from Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement visited Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

The delegation was headed by Bassam Hashem, the movement’s official in charge of relations with Lebanese and Palestinian factions.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Hashem highlighted the strong ties between the FPM and Hezbollah.

Hashem said he understood Hezbollah’s “wait-and-see strategy in its approach to some sensitive local issues, because of the circumstances it is facing being targeted inside Lebanon and forced to participate in Syria’s crisis.”

Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc dismissed the Future Movement’s conditions over the Cabinet formation process as “meaningless” in a statement after its weekly meeting.

“The conditions of the Future Movement are totally meaningless, particularly because they are being made by a group also involved in the bloody crisis in Syria and that is one of the tools conspiring against [Syria’s] stability and role,” the statement said.

The bloc said the formation of an all-embracing government had become more than necessary in light of recent developments in the country.Ahmad Hariri, the secretary-general of the Future Movement, said the Future Movement would not make concessions over Hezbollah’s arms, responding to remarks made by Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad.

“[It is] necessary that Hezbollah realizes that accusations of treason and threats to cut off hands will not make us surrender,” Hariri told a local media outlet. “It [Hezbollah] did what it did in May 2008, and we did not surrender to it or to its Syrian-Iranian plans.”

In a fiery speech Wednesday, Raad indirectly accused the Future Movement of conspiring with Israel to deceive the resistance by providing arms to Syrian rebels.

He added that Hezbollah had foiled this plan by driving rebels out of the Syrian strategic town of Qusair in June.

“We have defended ourselves and our Lebanon as required. But beware and do not force us to act in any way other than defensively,” Raad said. “We will cut off the hand of whoever wants to target the Lebanese or make Lebanon a consolation prize to anyone.”

Meanwhile, President Michel Sleiman highlighted again the importance of adherence to the Baabda Declaration. He said that political choices in Lebanon should not involve Lebanon in the “game of nations and their conflicts, but distance it from the negative repercussions of conflicts of axes and states.”

“This is the Baabda Declaration which was unanimously approved and was adopted by the highest ranking international organizations,” Sleiman said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 08, 2013, on page 1.




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