Sleiman postpones Dialogue to early 2013

The Daily Star
Fecha de publicación: 
28 Nov 2012

President Michel Sleiman postponed Wednesday National Dialogue to early 2013 as MP Walid Jumblatt’s ministers carried on with efforts to bridge the gap between Lebanon’s rival political camps.

Sources at Baabda Palace said the next National Dialogue session, the last round of which was held in September, was scheduled for Jan. 7 of next year. This week’s session had been scheduled for Thursday.

The president’s decision comes after the Future Movement held to its position of boycotting the all-party talks which Sleiman had hoped could serve as a medium to resolve the current government crisis.

Lebanon plunged into a political crisis in October following the assassination Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, who headed the police’s Information Branch.

The March 14 opposition, which accuses Syrian in the killing and hold the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet responsible, insists the Lebanese government resign over the incident.

As well as boycotting Dialogue, the Future Movement and the March 14 alliance which it leads have shunned all government activity at the Parliamentary level, accusing the Cabinet of providing the necessary cover for Hasan’s killing.

After Sleiman’s efforts to convene National Dialogue failed, MP Walid Jumblatt launched an initiative last week to prevent the country from plunging into "Sunni-Shiite strife" by holding contacts with rival factions in a bid to resume the multi-party talks.

Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi, who is heading Jumblatt’s delegation, said Wednesday the initiative went hand in hand with the president’s efforts to resume the interparty forum.

 There is an agreement that Dialogue can resolve all issues

After his meeting with Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem, Aridi also said that the resistance group agreed to engage in all-party talks as the only means to resolve outstanding issues.

“Our meeting today was useful and there is an agreement that Dialogue can resolve all issues,” Aridi told reporters.

“There is a willingness [from Hezbollah] to discuss all issues without exception,” he added.

Aridi stressed on the need to “organize disputes” and open lines of communications with all parties in the country.

Although stressing the opposition’s right to boycott, Aridi said the move was not a positive one.

In its weekly statement, the General Secretariat of the March 14 said it was convinced of its decision to boycott "given Hezbollah's insistence on underestimating the Baabda Declaration on one hand and the party's daily proof that it is not willing to discuss its arsenal.”

Earlier this year, rival political groups reached agreement during a National Dialogue session on what was termed the “Baabda Declaration,” which calls for keeping Lebanon neutral from regional repercussions, particularly events in Syria.

“Hezbollah's behavior confirms the validity of our decision to boycott dialogue,” the opposition said in its statement.

It also urged Sleiman to create an atmosphere conducive for talks, which it regards as requiring the resignation of the Cabinet.

During his chat with reporters, Aridi said that “regional and international players” have agreed on the need to keep the situation in Lebanon calm given the 21-month-old crisis in its neighbor Syria.

For his part, Qassem said that the resistance group is in favor of dialogue without preconditions, criticizing the behavior of his rivals in the opposition.

“No party, regardless of its size and popularity, can claim representation of the whole country or monopolize certain popular and political representation,” he said in a statement.

“The country cannot be stable and calm in the presence of attempts to isolate certain sects and their representation,” he added.

Hezbollah’s number two also said that National Dialogue was the only available and effective means to prevent political paralysis.

“No matter how long it takes, those betting on regional and international developments will discover that Dialogue is the solution but perhaps after major losses that we can avoid now,” Qassem said.


 Dana Khraiche