BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun says he is committed to national unity and that the country is at a crossroads with regard to its long-running political and economic crisis.
The leader said on Saturday that he “insists on abiding by the concept of national unity in his approach to forming a new government” and that “the government crisis has dragged on more than it should in light of the worrying economic and living conditions in the country.”
He also warned against “letting the deepening crisis impact the future of the country, which now stands at a crossroads.”
Aoun’s comments came after the release of a joint Saudi-US statement on the Lebanese situation.
He added that: “Consultations are ongoing to come up with a quick solution that leads to forming a new government.”
The joint statement, dubbed the Jeddah Communique, was issued after Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met US President Joe Biden in Jeddah on Friday and Saturday.
“The two sides affirmed their continued support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and stability, and their support for the Lebanese armed forces that protect its borders and resist the threats of violent extremist and terrorist groups,” it said.
“They also noted the importance of forming a Lebanese government and implementing comprehensive structural political and economic reforms to ensure that Lebanon overcomes its political and economic crisis and that it does not become a launch pad for terrorists, drug smuggling, or other criminal activities that threaten the stability and security of the region.”
The statement added that the two sides “emphasized the importance of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory, including with reference to fulfilling the provisions of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Taif Accord, and for it to exercise full sovereignty, so there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon or authority other than that of the government of Lebanon.”
Lebanese MP Razi Al-Hajj described the Jeddah Communique as a vital message, in both its timing and content.
“It accurately describes the reality of the country. Lebanon is still the focus of international attention,” he said
“Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s recent speech was not in the context of preserving Lebanon and its interests, but rather to remind us of the existence of a major player in the region, Iran,” Al-Hajj added.
“Lebanese sovereignty is the legitimacy that determines the state’s choices such as peace or war, and foreign relations.”
In its comments on the joint statement, the National Liberal Party said: “The Americans and the Saudis are more concerned about Lebanon’s strategic interests than the Lebanese officials.”
Rally for Sovereignty, a group of political activists, described the silence of political parties and sovereign and reformist forces in Lebanon as deplorable, as was the lack of support for the Saudi crown prince’s vision to transform the Middle East into a new Europe.
The group said also it hoped Biden “would interpret what was stated in the communique through US policies in the region, especially in terms of nuclear negotiations with Iran, so that any possible agreement includes the disarmament of Iranian proxies in the region, especially Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“The communique clearly mentioned the implementation of the Taif Agreement and the UN Security Council resolutions that guarantee Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and stability, all of which are decisions that the US contributed to formulating and approving, and it is thus morally and politically responsible for their implementation.”
Rally for Sovereignty also urged Lebanon’s government, and political and partisan forces “to carry out an Arab and international diplomatic campaign to compel Syria to duly acknowledge Lebanon’s ownership of the Shebaa Farms, which Israel occupied from the Syrian army … (and) to inform international bodies of this and remove it from Resolution 242 and attach it to Resolution 425 to compel Israel to withdraw from it.”
This was crucial, “especially since Hezbollah’s wars, which have brought destruction and impoverishment to Lebanon, failed to liberate these farms and turned them into a pretext for occupying the Lebanese interior,” it added.