Beirut – Lebanese circles are eagerly anticipating next week’s Arab League Summit, most notably President Michel Aoun’s stance and whether he will stress Lebanon’s commitment to Arab consensus in wake of the so-called “Hezbollah’s” involvement in regional wars.
Presidential sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the summit will mark the first occasion for Aoun to directly address Arab leaders, emphasizing that Beirut is committed to Arab consensus and causes.
There can be no doubt that the Lebanese stance will be “very critical”, but the Baabda sources were quick to ease concerns, saying: “Lebanon’s participation will be significant because its seat has not been occupied by a president for three years.”
Various political disputes in Lebanon resulted in a three-year vacancy in the presidency that was ended with Aoun’s election in November 2016. During the vacuum, Lebanon was represented at Arab summits by then Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil.
The Arab Summit will be held in Jordan on March 29.
“Lebanon has never veered away from Arab consensus,” continued the sources.
“It used to distance itself from regional issues, but since Aoun’s election, he eliminated this policy himself, and Lebanon now has a stance on and role in all files that concern it and its people,” they added.
“Lebanon will not stray away from consensus if it is present, but it will have a clear and honest position if it is absent,” they explained.
Asked how Lebanon will reconcile the Arab stance on the Syrian and Yemeni crises and Iran and “Hezbollah’s” role in them, the sources replied: “We should not jump to conclusions or make assumptions, because this issue hinges on the discussions that will take place at the summit.”
“Aoun is the first defender of Lebanon’s Arabism and the country is a main part of the Arab world,” they said, while noting that the president had kicked off his term in office by visiting Saudi Arabia, and therefore there can be no doubting the country’s Arab identity.
“Aoun believes that Lebanon will never find itself outside of the Arab fold,” they declared.
Member of the Lebanese Future Movement, former MP Mustapha Alloush, told Asharq Al-Awsat however that the country “is still under Iran’s hegemony through ‘Hezbollah’, which treats Lebanon like an Iranian colony.”
He explained that Aoun’s election was a product of local agreements and the president, “whether he wants to admit it or not,” believes that he is in ‘”Hezbollah’s” debt on the personal and national levels.
“This is why we witness stances that do not fall in line Arab consensus when it comes to issues related to ‘Hezbollah’,” said Alloush.
Lebanese former Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz meanwhile told Asharq Al-Awsat that Lebanon will be in a “very tight spot” at the summit because it is torn between “wanting to remain part of the Arab world and between the role of ‘Hezbollah’ and Iran in regional issues.”
He hoped that Arab leaders would “understand” Lebanon’s position that “cannot condemn ‘Hezbollah’ due to the consequences and sharp internal division such as step will cause.”
Observers are “banking on Aoun’s wisdom and ability to find middle ground between these two positions whereby Lebanon will remain in the Arab fold without causing internal rifts,” said Boueiz.