BEIRUT: The terms of a 1989 deal negotiated in Saudi Arabia to end Lebanon’s civil war and return political normalcy to the country must be implemented in full, a former minister has claimed.
Rashid Derbas’ comments echoed those of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri who said on Monday that the Taif Agreement acted as a constitution providing equality among the Lebanese people.
Their remarks followed a recent forum, organized by the Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari and held at the UNESCO Palace in Beirut, commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the accord.
Speakers at the gathering unanimously pointed out the need to apply provisions of the agreement still to be enacted and they reiterated their objections to amending them.
“The Taif Agreement needs to be implemented in full. Circumstances are different today, with Syria’s absence from Lebanon, and all parties have expressed their adherence to the Taif Agreement,” Derbas said.
The public renewal of consensus on the Taif Agreement followed an invitation to dinner on Nov. 8 from the Swiss ambassador to Lebanon. Although the planned engagement was later cancelled, some believe the dinner date had been set up as a prelude to launching a Lebanese dialogue in Geneva under Swiss sponsorship.
On the Taif Agreement provisions that had not been implemented, Berri said: “We have failed thrice to establish a supreme national commission to abolish political sectarianism, an election law outside sectarian restrictions, and the senate.”
The Lebanese Parliament was expected to hold another session on Thursday in a fresh attempt to elect a new president.
Berri added: “Our top priority is electing a president; 80 percent of the Lebanese people are below the poverty line, and we are still facing an electricity crisis, despite the fact that we spent tens of billions of dollars on this sector.
“And we also need to resume negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. This is why we need to elect a president as soon as possible.
“Lebanon may be able to endure weeks (of power vacuum), but it cannot bear more than that. Lebanon and the Lebanese cannot bear further deterioration.
“All the Lebanese conflicts were resolved through dialogue and consensus. The security situation in Lebanon remains strong, and the Lebanese are smarter than falling for attempts to stir up strife.”
Forum delegates highlighted the importance of appointing a new Lebanese president who was loyal to the Taif Agreement.
The forum was attended by representatives of all political parties in Lebanon, except for Hezbollah, including Amal Movement MP Enaya Ezzedine.
Derbas told Arab News: “The forum is a proactive action, validating the constitution and proving that no one is about to amend the agreement.
“The presence of presidential candidate Suleiman Franjieh at the forum was of great significance, just as the balanced Christian, Sunni, and Druze presence, that of the UN representatives, and former (Lebanese) President Michel Suleiman.
“Al-Bukhari also made it a point to stress that France has no intention of holding any dialogue that would damage the Taif Agreement. Every detail at the forum was meaningful and will bear a positive outcome,” he said.