BEIRUT: Lebanon’s political rivals met Tuesday for a ninth round of dialogue without achieving any breakthrough over the 17-month presidential deadlock that has paralyzed the government and state institutions, but announced a new session for Nov. 17.
As expected, Tuesday’s session was overshadowed by an enduring trash crisis that saw piles of uncollected garbage wash up along streets of the capital after heavy rains early last week.
Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon, from the Future Movement-led March 14 camp, looked visibly upset after the three-hour meeting.
“The trash crisis can no longer wait for the next [dialogue] session,” he told reporters, pointing to the need to export garbage as a preferred option over the establishment of landfills, which has faced mounting opposition from residents across Lebanon.
Pharaon decried the disposal of garbage in the seaside Karantina district north of Beirut.
“Karantina cannot cope with Beirut trash anymore,” he warned. “We have to consider exporting our trash.”
MP Ibrahim Kanaan from Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc had a different opinion.
“We highlighted the need to release [administration] funds to municipalities,” he told reporters covering the national dialogue at Parliament headquarters in Nijmeh Square. “This would solve the [trash] problem.”
The trash crisis erupted in mid-July after the country’s largest landfill in Naameh shut down, causing trash to pile up on the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
The Naameh landfill, which opened in 1997, was originally designed to receive 2 million tons of waste before closing within 10 years.
The Cabinet instead extended the operation of the landfill in 2006, 2010, 2014 and in January this year. It has received over 15 million tons to date, infuriating local residents who fear for their health.
On the presidential election issue, Kanaan said he had reiterated his bloc’s call for electing a president directly by the people.
Speaker Nabih Berri chaired the session, which kicked off shortly before 12 p.m. All but the Kataeb Party attended the meeting.
The party announced Monday that it will continue to boycott the national dialogue so long as the trash crisis continues and the government remains dysfunctional.
In a statement released by the party’s media office, Kataeb criticized the government for its inability to solve the ongoing trash crisis, which country has endured for nearly four months.
Prior to the national dialogue, Berri held a private meeting with Lebanese Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan.
Arslan has warned that residents of Shoueifat were overwhelmingly against the establishment of a landfill south of Beirut, which puts a plan designed to end the garbage crisis into further jeopardy.
Following Tuesday's session, the Druze MP said a crucial decision will be made at a 5 p.m. meeting with notable figures from Shoueifat.
"Tonight, Shoueifat will release its final decision on the [establishment of a landfill] in Costa Brava," which is located near the predominantly Druze town of Shoueifat.
Following the dialogue session, Parliament’s Secretariat met in an attempt to agree on the agenda of an upcoming legislative session. The session will be held to approve urgent draft laws, including the World Bank’s $600 million soft loans.
At last week’s meeting chaired by Berri, members of Parliament’s Secretariat agreed on listing 19 draft laws on the agenda, mostly linked to the state’s finances and loans. The agenda will most likely exclude a new electoral law and the public sector’s salary hike proposal.
However, the 19 draft laws included a bill that would grant foreigners of Lebanese origin Lebanese citizenship.