Beirut-Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil expressed his country’s desire to restore relations with Saudi Arabia, asserting that both states would witness better days.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Bassil who is the son-in-law of Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and his right hand man, said the head of state’s position vis-à-vis the Arab world is more than positive.
“Aoun believes that Lebanon cannot exist without its Arab identity, and without its Arab neighbors and normal relations with Arab states,” Bassil said.
Asked to comment on the Gulf dismay from the position taken by Lebanon at the Arab League after the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad, Bassil said: “We cannot build on a mistake that was committed in the past.”
He asserted that Lebanon’s government and its foreign ministry had not violated the protocol of the Arab League and had never left the rule of staying away from the policy of axes.
The Foreign Minister said that Aoun “was Hezbollah’s ally when he was the leader of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc. But after his election, Aoun became the ally of all the Lebanese.”
Bassil admitted that the so-called Hezbollah belongs to the groups that are currently interfering in Syria. “There is a problematic situation that requires a complete withdrawal of all parties currently present in Syria.”
He said the country should be left for Syrians who should unilaterally end the current military situation, fight terrorism and establish a regime that pleases them.
The president’s son-in-law said the slogan of Lebanon’s new era should be a respect for the Constitution and laws.
“The image of Lebanon should be that of a state acting independently in its local decisions and foreign policy,” Bassil told the newspaper.
When asked whether the shift of alliances witnessed in Lebanon in the past few months could be interpreted as a coup in the political scene, Bassil said: “A coup happens when you use force.”
He said the change in alliances happened because the image of Lebanon was “fake.”
“Today there is a very normal image reflecting the desire of Christians to see Michel Aoun as the president of the Republic,” he added.
Bassil asserted there was no deal between Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and Aoun at the expense of any other Lebanese faction, saying the country’s political parties are required to fully cooperate with the authorities to secure the success of the new era.
“There is a national understanding,” he said, adding that “time will prove that we had not agreed in advance on the next Army Commander or the Central Bank governor.”
However, Bassil stated that his party had asked Hariri to respect the National Charter and the norms of representation. “There was a deficiency in all state positions including the government. We asked that this deficiency be handled without harming the representation of any party.”
The minister added: “We cannot be in a position where one party not having enough people to represent gets three ministers in the cabinet, and parties with 60 to 70 percent of representation get two ministers.”
Bassil expected the new government to be formed swiftly. “There is an important optimistic drive that would help its formation,” he said.
Asked whether Lebanon was ready to draft a new electoral law and hold the parliamentary elections, the Foreign Minister said: “The next law should get the approval of all political parties…We should be ready to agree on a law during a period of two or three months and hold parliamentary polls on time.”
Concerning the relations with Speaker Nabih Berri, Bassil said Berri is an essential part of the state and it will be normal to include him in the political process.
“We will only deal positively with him, and our hands are extended for cooperation,” he added.