BEIRUT: Efforts to form a new Cabinet have so far not yielded any positive results, political sources said Monday, dashing hopes for an early birth of a government to confront serious security threats arising from the civil war in Syria.
Saudi Arabia has not yet given the green light for Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form a new Cabinet, the sources said.
A political source was commenting on the outcome of a meeting in Riyadh between caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour and Taymour Jumblatt, son of Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, with Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The meeting discussed, among other things, the four-month-long Cabinet deadlock.
A terse statement issued by the PSP’s media office said Abu Faour and Taymour Jumblatt returned to Beirut Monday after visiting Saudi Arabia, where they had met a number of Saudi officials, including Prince Bandar, to discuss the current situation in Lebanon and the region.
The statement described the meeting with Bandar as “constructive and extremely important,” saying the two sides discussed “several political issues raised in this sensitive period through which the Arab region in general, and Lebanon in particular, is passing.”
The two sides stressed “the good relations binding the PSP leader with Saudi Arabia’s leadership and people and his appreciation of the kingdom’s role in supporting Lebanon and protecting its stability.”
The political source said the delay in the PSP delegation’s meeting with Bandar signaled that the visit did not yield “positive results.”
“This means that Saudi Arabia has not yet given the green light for Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form a Cabinet,” the source told The Daily Star, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source dismissed media reports that predicted the formation of a new Cabinet by the end of the month.
“No Cabinet will be formed soon, first because of the local parties’ opposed attitudes, and second, because of developments in the region and the absence of a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement over the situation in Lebanon,” the source added.
Sources close to the PSP concurred that the visit of Abu Faour and Jumblatt’s son to Riyadh was not successful in helping break the Cabinet deadlock.“The visit failed to persuade Saudi officials of the PSP leader’s viewpoint on the need to form a national unity Cabinet with the participation of all political parties, including Hezbollah,” a source close to the PSP told The Daily Star.
“In return, Saudi officials were unable to convince Jumblatt’s two delegates of their viewpoint calling for the formation of a government without party representatives as proposed by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam in agreement with the president,” the source said.
A PSP source said that the visit to Riyadh has boosted ties between the two sides. “But the results of the visit with regard to facilitating the Cabinet formation need further contacts and consultations,” the source added.
Caretaker Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud ruled out an imminent formation of a new Cabinet while Saudi Arabia and Iran remained at odds and supported opposing sides in Lebanon.
“No Cabinet will be formed soon due to the conflicting stances of the Lebanese parties and the absence of a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement over the crisis in Lebanon,” Abboud, who belongs to MP Michel Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc, told The Daily Star.
Salam’s attempts to set up a government of rival politicians have stalled on conditions and counter-conditions set by the March 8 and March 14 camps over the makeup and role of the new Cabinet.
This prompted calls from the March 14 coalition for the formation of a neutral, nonpartisan Cabinet. The March 14 coalition has also rejected Hezbollah’s participation in the Cabinet before it withdraws its fighters from Syria.
March 8 parties, which fear that Salam might form a Cabinet without Hezbollah, warn that such a step would only further complicate matters.
A source close to the PSP said that the positions of parliamentary blocs on the Cabinet formation have not changed, which could eventually lead to the creation of a fait accompli government.
Jumblatt is not convinced that such a government would be able to work and steer the country to safety or take decisive decisions in these crucial days through which Lebanon is passing, the source said.
Salam has voiced his support for a nonpartisan government to deal with the country’s worsening socio-economic conditions.
President Michel Sleiman has indicated that if a government embracing all the political parties could not be formed, the alternative is a neutral Cabinet.
But Hezbollah and its March 8 allies have warned against forming a neutral or a fait accompli Cabinet.
Meanwhile, a Parliament session, scheduled for Tuesday, will not be held for a lack of quorum for the fourth time.
A source in the parliamentary Future bloc said the bloc and its March 14 allies would boycott Tuesday’s session. “The session is considered unconstitutional under a caretaker Cabinet,” the source told The Daily Star.
A source close to caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Mikati’s stance on convening Parliament to discuss a large number of items under a resigned Cabinet has not changed. Abboud also said Aoun’s bloc would not attend Tuesday’s session.
Mikati, the Future bloc and its March 14 allies argue that the legislative sessions under a caretaker government are unconstitutional and that the assembly should only meet to discuss urgent matters.