BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has again held talks with President Michel Aoun during his unexpected visit to Baabda Palace, which did not result in any progress to form a new government.
Following the meeting, Hariri said that after his visits to Turkey, Egypt and France, he sensed enthusiasm for forming a government through the roadmap drawn up by French President Emmanuel Macron, which Lebanese political parties agreed to at the Pine Residence on Aug. 6, 2020, in order to save Lebanon, stop the deterioration and rebuild Beirut Port.
From Baabda Palace, he warned that “without a government of specialists non-affiliated with political parties, we cannot undertake the task of saving Lebanon.”
He added: “If anyone thinks that if this government includes political members, the international community will open up to us or give us what we want, he would be wrong. The basic idea is to form a government that includes specialized ministers who do not irritate any political team and work only to complete the project presented to them.”
He noted that he consulted with Aoun: “We made no progress, but I explained to him the importance of the golden opportunity that we have, so we must accelerate the formation of this government, and every political team must bear the responsibility of its stances from now on.”
Hariri insists on forming “an 18-minister government made up of specialists,” and he reiterated his rejection of a blocking third: “This will not change for me.”
The political discord between Hariri and Aoun had escalated after Aoun accused Hariri of being a “liar” in a leaked video of a meeting between the president and caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Jan. 11.
Aoun, along with the Free Patriotic Movement, are demanding to appoint Christian ministers in the government and raise their number to 20, which allows the presence of a blocking third in favor of the president. Hariri delivered to Aoun a draft of the government formation and is awaiting a response.
The Vice President of the Future Movement Mustafa Alloush said Hariri visited Aoun so that “no one alleges that Hariri does not communicate. He broke the stalemate and overcame the offenses against him.”
Alloush told Arab News: “Hariri wanted to confirm once again that his position toward the formation of the government and its mission will not change, especially after he came back from France and other countries that will only deal with an independent government.”
Hariri is scheduled to deliver a speech on Sunday, the 16th anniversary of the assassination of his father Rafik Hariri, in which he will announce a number of political positions.
Alloush said: “Options are open for Hariri, but he will not apologize for continuing to form the government entrusted to him by Aoun, according to binding parliamentary consultations on Oct. 22, notably in this period where one step can lead to rapid collapse and total chaos in the country. Either the international community interferes or Lebanon is left to its certain fate as the next Somalia.”
He added: “Hariri will wait for feedback in the next 48 hours in order to determine the next step.”
Asked if Hariri was waiting for Aoun’s allies to intervene and convince him to pursue the suggested government, Alloush said: “Hezbollah is Aoun’s only ally, and this party left Aoun on his own, smearing his name through his positions. I think that Hezbollah is not in a hurry to form a government as it is waiting for developments in American-Iranian relations.”
Aoun’s initial response to his meeting with Hariri came in a statement by his media office: “Hariri requested the meeting and consulted Aoun regarding the formation of the government after his tour abroad, and the prime minister-designate did not bring anything new regarding the government formation process.”
Senior Hezbollah official Ibrahim Amin Al-Sayyed said: “Hezbollah is eager to form a government as soon as possible,” and rejected “linking the formation process with Iran’s nuclear deal.”
However, he said that “Hezbollah always tries to reconcile points of view between parties and works in accordance with respecting its allies.”