BEIRUT: The Future Movement and Hezbollah agreed Monday to exert efforts to end the Cabinet paralysis during their 13th dialogue session, as the government was set to skip its meeting for the second consecutive week.
“Attendees discussed developments and the situation in the country, and they highlighted the necessity of continuing the dialogue and the implementation of security plans, along with creating an enabling atmosphere to ensure the functioning of constitutional institutions,” said a terse statement issued after the three-hour meeting.
The contentious issue of security appointments has crippled the government’s work and prompted Prime Minister Tammam Salam to suspend meetings.
Backed by Hezbollah, the ministers of MP Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement have said they would not allow the Cabinet to discuss any topic before it addresses the appointments of new security chiefs, including Aoun’s son-in-law, Brig. Gen. Shamel Roukoz, the head of the Army Commando Unit, as the military’s commander.
But ministers from the Future Movement, Kataeb Party, Progressive Socialist Party and Speaker Nabih Berri’s bloc argue that no one political group had the right to paralyze the Cabinet.
Salam tackled the Cabinet deadlock during a meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, from the FPM, and Hezbollah’s parliamentary Affairs Minister Mohammad Fneish. Salam also discussed the impasse with Information Minister Ramzi Joreige, from the Kataeb Party.
Salam has denounced the government paralysis over the appointment of an employee. But in a bid to resolve the crisis, the prime minister did not chair the weekly Cabinet session last week and did not call for one this week either.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said that no breakthrough was achieved during the meeting between Salam, Bassil and Fneish. “They told him: ‘We adhere to our stance and he told them the same,’” said Derbas, who is close to Salam.
But the minister said he was confident that Salam would not wait long and would eventually call for a Cabinet session.
“I spoke to him today. He is taking his time [before calling for a session] but this does not reflect subjugation [to the will of those obstructing the government’s work],” Derbas said.
“It is impossible that the state remains without a government. I am confident that even those who are disrupting the government now will ask for a Cabinet session, because people’s concerns are not being addressed,” he said.
However, Derbas said it was not yet clear whether Salam would call for a session next week. The minister warned that if the Cabinet impasse persisted, then public sector employees would not receive the salaries of September.
“In the absence of a budget, funds are transferred from the treasury to every ministry, and every such step requires a Cabinet decision,” Derbas said.
For his part, Joreige said after meeting Salam that he urged the prime minister to behave in line with his powers and call for a Cabinet session.
The new round of talks between the Future Movement and Hezbollah, which was held at Speaker Nabih Berri’s Ain al-Tineh residence, came amid renewed tension and an escalating verbal feud between the two rival parties over local and regional issues, including the resistance party’s fight against militants on the outskirts of Arsal.
Despite the continuous exchange of scathing diatribe, the two sides have been meeting since last December at Berri’s residence.
Separately, Salam is set to travel to Cairo Wednesday for a one-day official visit where he will hold talks with President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand sheikh of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the top Sunni religious authority in the world.