French President Francois Hollande’s visit to Saudi Arabia scheduled for Dec. 29 might have been planned in response to international pressure aiming to reopen regional communication channels, which might, if successful, contribute to resolving the political crisis in Lebanon.
Political sources told The Daily Star that Saudi Arabia had an essential role to play in Lebanon, especially with a potential vacuum in the presidency looming and the Cabinet formation still stalled, raising concerns among Western countries that the state might suddenly collapse and diminish any possibility of resolving the Lebanese political crisis.
The sources added that the impact of the recent agreement reached between Iran and world powers over the former’s nuclear program would be felt greatest in Lebanon, since the crisis in the country has always been linked to regional turmoil and tensions.
“That’s why,” the source said, “a Lebanese party is incapable of undermining stability in Lebanon, because the catastrophic results would affect all parties.”
Touching on international support for Lebanon, diplomatic sources said that delegations coming from France, Russia and the Vatican were expected to arrive soon and would emphasize their support to maintaining stability in the country and their desire to prevent a power vacuum in state institutions and to disassociate Lebanon from regional struggles and prevent internal conflicts.
Also, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai is expected to relay a message from the Vatican to Christian leaders in Lebanon encouraging them to come to an agreement over the presidency so that the post is not left vacant once incumbent President Michel Sleiman’s mandate expires next year.
Ministerial sources told The Daily Star that the campaign against Sleiman had been ordered by the Syrian regime to prevent him from forming a non-politicized Cabinet and to lead the public to believe that he was willing to extend his mandate, despite the fact that he had been adamant on several occasions that he is against such a move.
The Daily Star asked sources close to Sleiman about the campaign against him. They attributed it to three motives: an attempt to minimize the influence of the presidency, and subsequently undermine the national principles that Sleiman adopted and formalized in the Baabda Declaration; to send a message to the international community and the International Support Group for Lebanon that stability in the country can’t be achieved without the involvement of other key regional players; and, to respond to Sleiman’s stances toward several regional and domestic issues, especially Lebanon’s cordial relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has angered certain Lebanese parties which prefer that foreign relations remain focused on other countries in the region.
A source from Baabda Palace added that Sleiman, who was elected during an extraordinary stage of Lebanon’s political history, chose to clearly declare his stances rather than abandon his beliefs at a time when Lebanon was divided between two camps.
The source noted that Sleiman refused to be a silent witness to the activities of Hezbollah in Syria, and that’s why he called on all parties, not just Hezbollah, to refrain from stoking the fires in Syria, because the repercussions of such actions would be felt in Lebanon.
The source added that Sleiman still supported a national unity Cabinet and would not allow any Lebanese political party to be excluded from the next Cabinet.
The source also said that attempts to intimidate Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam would not go beyond verbal threats because endangering the internal stability of Lebanon was a red line that all parties knew should not be crossed.