Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – The March 14 Alliance has renewed its refusal to participate in the national dialogue called for by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and which is scheduled to take place on 7 December, describing this as “the dialogue of the deaf” and dismissing it as a “waste of time.” This national dialogue aims to discuss the issue of Hezbollah’s arms and a unified defense strategy for Lebanon.
A Lebanese presidential palace source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, stressed that “the efforts being undertaken by President Suleiman to convince the parties to participate at the dialogue table is ongoing and will not stop.” The source also confirmed that “communications with all political parties are ongoing” adding that “new information regarding who is going to participate in the national dialogue may be revealed up till the date of the meeting.”
The unnamed source stressed that the Lebanese president is in touch with all March 14 Alliance leadership figures, including former prime ministers Saad Hariri and Fouad Siniora, as well as former president Amine Gemayel.
Lebanese Forces party Secretary-General Dr. Samir Geagea has publicly announced his opposition to the proposed national dialogue, asserting that engaging in national dialogue with Hezbollah to resolve the issue of its arsenal would be futile. Speaking during a press conference on Friday at his Maarab residence, Geagea said “Hezbollah is not willing to discuss its arms. Therefore, on what grounds should we participate once more in [national] dialogue sessions?”
He added “we support dialogue in principle, but not one that has produced nothing but lies and cheating.”
The Lebanese Forces party leader also said “one of the decisions arrived at during previous national dialogue sessions was the formation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was established in 2007 to try those behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but Hezbollah lawmakers withdrew from the government when the decision was referred to parliament.” He added “we no longer trust them [Hezbollah] to engage in talks.”
Geagea also criticized Hezbollah’s recent threats towards Israel, publicly addressing Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah saying “you are not authorized to take such stances. The president and the government have such authority from the Lebanese people, but you don’t.”
Future bloc MP Jean Ogassapian revealed that “some assassinations have taken place, most recently that of martyrs Wissam Hassan, and we cannot return each time to this dialogue of the deaf as if nothing has happened.”
Whilst Future bloc MP Ahmed Fatfat stressed that “this dialogue should focus on one issue, namely arms and [Suleiman’s] defense strategy” adding “there must be credibility.”
He stressed that “at this point, there is one party that has no credibility present on this table, and this is because over the past six and a half years Hezbollah has agreed to numerous things during this dialogue that it has failed to implement. It withdrew over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, border demarcation and Palestinian arms.”
For his part, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati reiterated his criticism of the opposition’s boycott of government on Saturday.
“A boycott at this time is not right and we have to learn from the mistakes of the past; the mistakes of the Lebanese [1975-90] civil war and what the policy of isolation and boycotting has led to”, Mikati said in a Facebook post.
Lebanon’s opposition forces have called for the resignation of the Lebanese government against the backdrop of the assassination of Intelligence Chief Wissam Hassan, pledging to use all democratic means in their power to pressure the cabinet to step down. March 14 Alliance figures have called for the formation of a “neutral salvation” government to replace the current government and oversee parliamentary elections scheduled for 2013.
The opposition has also boycotted national dialogue, which was relaunched earlier this year by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, to address the issue of Hezbollah’s arsenal and a national defense strategy. Hezbollah is insisting that its weapons should remain under its own authority, in coordination with the Lebanese army, whilst the March 14 Alliance is demanding that all arms should be under the jurisdiction of the state.