Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – The situation in Lebanon continues to be a source of concern, domestically, regionally, and internationally, particularly in light of the escalation between Hezbollah and some of its allies on one side, and the Future Movement and some of its allies, on the other. Despite efforts to dispel the climate of tension that has existed between the two sides since the events of 7 May 2008 [resulting in Hezbollah seizing control of section of West Beirut from Future Movement militia], the political discourse from both parties’ remains inflammatory, and a campaign of escalation continues.
Following a meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali al-Shami in which the discussion touched upon the recent deterioration and the ongoing tension in Lebanon, the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, expressed concerns about stability in Lebanon. Williams said that “this issue has generated some concern for Lebanon’s stability. The United Nations continues to believe that any differences should be resolved through calm and rational dialogue between all sides, and through the work of Lebanon’s state institutions.” Williams also said that President Michel Suleiman Foreign Minister Ali al-Shami’s upcoming trip to the UN General Assembly presents an important opportunity for Lebanon, as this will be “an opportunity to discuss the implementation of [UN] Security Council Resolution 1701.”
Future Movement MP Ahmed Fatfat told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Future Movement “is not responsible for the political storm that is being witnessed by Lebanon, but was only responding to the attacks being made against it.” Fatfat also confirmed that “the Future Movement has principles that it will never give up, most importantly is the international tribunal for Lebanon.”
MP Ahmed Fatfat also clarified to Asharq Al-Awsat that “Prime Minister Saad Hariri – in a statement he made during a meeting of the Future Movement the day before yesterday [Monday], pledged not to withdraw his support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, even if this costs him the premiership or puts his security at risk…at the same time he [also] pledged his support towards good bilateral relations with Syria, and the Lebanese state project.” Fatfat added that “the issue of calm is to do with the other party [Hezbollah] as that is where the escalation is coming from.”
Answering a question about Syria’s position towards what is happening in Lebanon, especially as one of the party’s involved in this escalation is a Syrian ally, Fatfat told Asharq Al-Awsat “Let’s be clear, the Syrian regime does what is in its interests and the interests of its country, while we as Lebanese, must work for the interests of our country. It is certain that some in Lebanon are upset about opening a new page with Damascus, but we will not allow them to disturb this relationship.” He added that “Lebanese parties affiliated to Syria are not in favor of what is happening, and there is a picture printed in the mind, that Jamil Sayyed began an attack (on Hariri and the Future Movement) after his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that Aoun opened fire after his son-in-law Minister Gibran Bassil also met with al-Assad, and that in effect Syria is doing what it wants, [however] we have not felt anything negative from Syria.”
Fatfat also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the message that Prime Minister Saad Hariri will send to the people of Lebanon…will involve a number of issues, and this includes sticking to his fundamental principles, and at the forefront of this is the international tribunal, as well as committing to his allies, the [Lebanese] state, and to the bilateral relations between Lebanon and Syria.”
For his part, Future Movement MP Ammar Houri welcomed “the return to calm discourse” adding that “we are advocates of calm…and democratic discourse.” Following Hezbollah’s enthusiastic reception of General Jamil Sayyed at Beirut airport, and the press conference that Sayyed conducted from there, MP Ammar Houri said that the Future Movement “hoped that Hezbollah would have commented on what Sayyed said about the Prime Minister, but [Hezbollah] avoided any discussions of what happened at the airport.”
As for the Ministerial Statement that was put forward by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Future Movement MP Ammar Houri said that “the Future Movement has never reversed its commitment towards the Ministerial Statement…and we are committed to the full terms of the Ministerial Statement from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to [the principles of] co-existence, peace, and calm.” Houri also stressed that “the Ministerial Statement must avoid any political tensions.” Houri also said that Prime Minister Hariri is committed to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, strong relations with Syria, and the statements he previously made to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in this regard.
Following his meeting with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, leader of the National Liberal Party MP Dory Chamoun announced that he regretted “the state’s absence from the airport…which allowed for the holding of such a reception for somebody who is an outlaw.” Chamoun also said that “we were hoping that the people who received Sayyed would have reached a degree of understanding to know that such behavior would have negative repercussions on the country as a whole.” He added that “I am not afraid with regards to the issue of arms, because they used this in the past and they understood that this is unacceptable internally, and that the more they use force and flex their muscles whilst hiding behind their weapons, the more they expose the resistance.”
Future Movement MP Kazem al-Kheir also confirmed that “it is not in anybody’s interests – domestically or regionally – for unrest to erupt in Lebanon” warning that “the day that unrest erupts…extremism will be in charge of the situation.” Al-Kheir also stressed that “resorting to the use of arms harms the resistance more than anybody else.” He also said that “it is a necessity for Lebanese figures to meet (in reference to proposed meetings between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah) especially in order to break the ice with regards to the statements being issued.”
For his part, Hezbollah member MP Ali Fayyad, stressed that “the most dangerous thing facing the logic of the state is sectarian logic, and the other side using this logic.” He called on everybody to “return to the logic of the state and its institutes” He also claimed that “everything that took place at Beirut airport took place in coordination with official [state] organs” adding that “we respond to calm with calm but we cannot describe this stage as being calm, but rather it is a phase of transition.” Fayyad also said that “every attempt to incite unrest targets the resistance” and asked “why has the false witnesses’ case not begun? What is postponing this?” adding that “the false witnessing and the international tribunal are two issues related to one another, and the international tribunal is biased.”