BEIRUT: The durability of the recent rapprochement between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces will be tested by how both factions deal with imminent Christian issues in the country, an FPM lawmaker said Sunday. “We have turned a new page. This new relationship will be tested on several occasions and we will see how things will develop,” MP Alain Aoun told The Daily Star.
“There is now a possibility for cooperation and coordination on any issue. The two groups have agreed to cooperate on major issues that concern Christians,” he said.
Meanwhile LF Communication Department Chairman Melhem Riachi said the rival factions would continue to hold dialogue sessions until their differences were resolved.
“The dialogue will continue and there will be no disputes between the two groups from now,” Riachi said during a seminar in Dikwaneh.
Bitter Christian rivals and presidential candidates, FPM leader Michel Aoun and LF head Samir Geagea held a rare meeting last Tuesday. Riachi and FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan engaged in preparatory talks for six months prior to the Aoun-Geagea meeting.
After the talks, held in Aoun’s Rabieh residence, both groups issued a joint statement calling for the election of a president, one of 16 general points of agreement mentioned in the document.
A declaration of intent signed by both parties concluded by stating that the new relationship between the LF and the FPM would be based on mutual respect for democratic principles, whereby constitutional and democratic codes would surpass any existing political rivalry.
Alain Aoun said the meeting had a positive impact on Christians in Lebanon, who are eager to see such an agreement between their leaders.
Riachi and Kanaan Saturday handed a copy of the declaration of intent to Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai.
In his Sunday sermon in Bkirki, Rai hailed the meeting and the declaration of intent, saying it would boost hopes of ending Lebanon’s presidential vacuum. “It is a step that had a good impact on Lebanese in general and Christians in particular,” he said.
“It raised new hopes of enhancing internal unity and that a new president could be elected as soon as possible,” the patriarch added.
Rai said the election of a president would protect the integrity of Parliament and the government, with the former currently unable to legislate and the latter paralyzed over the issue of security appointments.
“There is no solution without the election of a head of a state,” Rai said.
Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora voiced his support of the thaw in ties between Aoun and Geagea, noting that they both acknowledged their rapprochement was in line with the Constitution and that they would not act at the expense of other political groups in the country.
“I think that Dr. Geagea was clear and frank about this issue. Thus, we support and encourage this move but what we are always concerned about is adherence to the Constitution, the National Pact, the Taif Accord and the respect of other components of the Lebanese society,” Siniora said.
He highlighted the dangers facing Lebanese due to the presidential void, caused by the boycott of most March 8 MPs of election sessions.
“After failing to elect a president 24 times over a lack of quorum, I believe Lebanon is going through a very dangerous crisis and this affects the livelihood of people,” he said. “He who doesn’t see this, let him look at other countries, let him look at what is happening in Greece,” he said in reference to the severe economic crisis gripping the European country.
Meanwhile, Kataeb Party chief Amine Gemayel accused FPM rivals of pursuing personal and family interests under the guise of protecting Christian rights.
Gemayel called on the FPM to “separate personal and family interests from Christian rights.”
“In their perspective, if an FPM member does not reach the presidency or any other [high-ranking] post, the rights of Christians are at risk,” Gemayel told Voice of Lebanon radio station.
He called on the FPM to employ a sense of “modesty and consider the interests of the country because the interests of Christians should not be restricted to one person or party.”
Aoun claims that he is the best representative of Christians and should be elected a president. He is also proposing that his son-in-law and head of the Army Special Forces unit, Brig. Gen. Shamel Roukoz, be appointed Army commander, insisting he is the most competent officer for this post.