BEIRUT: The Swiss embassy in Lebanon has postponed an informal dinner that was scheduled to take place at the ambassador’s residence at the invitation of the Switzerland-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue.
The event aimed to brainstorm with “Lebanese as well as regional and international actors” but was postponed following controversy and disapproval among political parties opposing Hezbollah and its allies.
It was seen as an attempt prior to the end of President Michel Aoun’s term to dismantle the Taif Agreement and establish a tripartite governance, allowing the Shiite sect to be an influencing partner in governance.
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari reiterated “the national pact principles contained in the Taif Agreement, which constitutes a main foundation that protected Lebanon and ensured its stability.”
Independent MP Abdel Rahman Bizri said that “any modification to and reconsideration of the Taif Agreement are rejected and dubious, and a proof that some people want to complicate things instead of facilitating the awaited political solutions.”
Bizri said that “the Taif Agreement is a national pact that was concluded as a result of the great sacrifices and hardships faced by the Lebanese.”
He added that the problem “we face today is the result of the practices of the ruling class and top officials who have managed the country for decades.”
A number of Lebanese MPs representing parliamentary blocs were invited to dinner on Tuesday at the residence of the Swiss Ambassador to Lebanon Marion Weichelt.
The event was planned as a platform to discuss a number of issues before later talks in Geneva on Lebanon.
It had been reported that the event would bring together representatives of Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Forces of Change.
However, the Lebanese Forces asked its representative not to attend the dinner. Independent MPs and the Forces of Change refused to be represented.
MP Waddah Sadek told Arab News: “This project has been in preparation for three months. If we take a closer look at the people working on it, we see that some of them are close to Hezbollah, noting that Hezbollah has been planning a campaign against the Taif Agreement a while ago.
“If we connect the dots we realize that this dinner, and the invitation to the Geneva conference, are not unprompted and a European cover has been provided for this meeting.
“If the point of the meeting was to hold discussions and not repeal the Taif Agreement, why should it be held at the embassy and later abroad?
“Moreover, the Forces of Change MPs did not know about this meeting. We only heard about it from the media and the invited MP did not tell us anything.”
Sadek said that the constitution “is my main reference and I am against any international or local conference amid the de facto weapon. No one represents me in any meeting and at any embassy and I refuse to discuss this matter.”
MP Melhem Riachi, of the Lebanese Forces, said he will not be attending the meeting without clarification of its background.
Bukhari visited Aoun and Lebanese Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri on Monday. He reiterated the Kingdom’s support for Lebanon’s unity and people, based on national principles in the Taif Agreement. He also stressed the importance of carrying out the constitutional elections on time.
He wrote on Twitter: “The Taif agreement is a binding contract to strengthen the foundations of a pluralistic Lebanon. The alternative is not another pact but the disintegration of coexistence, the disappearance of the united nation and its replacement by entities that do not resemble the Lebanese message.”
The Swiss Embassy said that Switzerland had been actively engaged in Lebanon for many years.
It added: “Over the last couple of months, Switzerland, in collaboration with the Swiss-based organization Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, was in contact with the full spectrum of political Lebanese as well as regional and international actors to prepare for consultative discussions, not for a dialogue conference.
“It is Switzerland’s tradition to offer good offices when asked to do so. The planned discussions are the result of previous consultations with the full spectrum of political Lebanese as well as regional and international actors, and in full respect of the Taif Agreement and the Lebanese constitution.”