Beirut- Few months prior to ending Lebanon’s presidential vacuum, which lasted for more than two and a half years, Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouq had announced that the election of a new president would be achieved before the end of this year.
Mashnouq had repeated this statement on several occasions and in his meetings with Arab and foreign ambassadors.
The Interior Minister was still attached to his famous statement, which several forces considered an exaggerated optimism in light of the dark period the country was passing through.
But, the Lebanese were surprised after Mashnouq’s assurances were realized when a president was elected on October 31, two months before the end of 2016.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Nohad Mashnouq did not deny his support to the initiative of head of the Future Movement Saad Hariri to end the presidential vacuum.
“Lebanon needed a rescue operation,” Mashnouq said, adding that the newly elected President Michel Aoun respects Lebanon’s isolation from regional developments and the Taif Accord.
When asked to comment on the “rescue” operation that brought “Hezbollah’s” candidate to the Presidential Palace amid an opposition from the Future Movement bloc and the March 14 supporters, Mashnouq said: “There is no victory or defeat to any political movement. The true victory is for Lebanon as a state that was capable to recuperate its constitutional quorum.”
Mashnouq added that Iran’s policy in the region does not aim for stability. “This is what we are witnessing in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, completely the opposite of Saudi Arabia’s policy which is considered as part of the stability in most states that need the Kingdom’s support,” the Interior Minister said.
Mashnouq denied rumors saying the March 14 had abandoned its principles, explaining that the group’s main plan is to build a strong state. “By electing a new president, we will limit chaos, prevent disorder and stop division among the Lebanese,” he added.
Asked about the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2006 between Aoun and the so-called Hezbollah, Mashnouq said that this memorandum was signed between the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah and not between President Michel Aoun and the party. “Today Michel Aoun is the President of the Lebanese Republic and not of his party. We should differentiate between General Michel Aoun and President Michel Aoun.”
Mashnouq also responded to the reasons behind the decrease of the Future Movement popularity, confirming that it was not linked to the initiative launched by Hariri concerning the presidential file. “It is rather due to his absence from Lebanon for several years.”
The Interior Minister said that the new term would face economic and development challenges.
Asked about Hariri’s statement in which he guaranteed an agreement to isolate Lebanon from regional crisis, especially the events in Syria, Mashnouq said: “Syria’s war has burned all the international forces that decided to be involved in it, including Iran, Russia, the U.S. and Hezbollah.”
He said Hariri has already summarized Lebanon’s need to isolate itself from the Syrian war by saying that “when the Syrians decide what form of regime they want, then Lebanon would deal with it.”