BEIRUT: Representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the European Union and the Arab League have underlined the urgency of forming a new government in Lebanon to meet security challenges posed by the war in Syria, a senior U.N. official said Friday.
The declaration by U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly coincided with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s renewed call on rival Lebanese political leaders to finalize the formation of a government without further delay.
Plumbly spoke to reporters at Baabda Palace after attending a meeting of representatives of the International Support Group for Lebanon chaired by President Michel Sleiman.
The meeting was designed to follow up on decisions taken by the group at its meeting in New York last month on extending humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees who fled to neighboring countries. Lebanese officials estimate the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon at 1.3 million.
In addition to Plumbly and representatives of UNHCR and the World Bank, the heads of mission or delegation of the Arab League, the EU, the United States, France, Russia, Britain and China attended the Baabda meeting.
“Participants again underlined the urgency of government formation, and its importance if the security, humanitarian and development challenges facing Lebanon are to be met effectively,” Plumbly said.
“They looked for the resumption of dialogue and stressed again the importance of commitment by all Lebanese parties to the Baabda Declaration.”
Sleiman has repeatedly urged the rival March 8 and March 14 factions to comply with the Baabda Declaration, which calls for keeping Lebanon away from regional and international conflicts. March 14 leaders have accused Hezbollah of violating the declaration with its military intervention in Syria to assist President Bashar Assad’s forces.
In his semiannual report Wednesday to the U.N. Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 1559, Ban stressed the need for the formation of a new government in Lebanon to face security and humanitarian challenges posed by the repercussions of the 30-month war in Syria.
“It is self-evident that, to address the multiple challenges it faces, Lebanon requires an empowered government,” Ban said. “I encourage Lebanon’s leaders to finalize the formation of a government without further delay.”
Ban added: “The urgent formation of a government is particularly critical in the context of the humanitarian crisis.”
The calls by Plumbly and Ban to form a government in Lebanon come as the Cabinet crisis enters its seventh month with no solution in sight. The March 8 and March 14 leaders are standing firm on their conflicting conditions on the makeup of the government, making Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam’s job difficult.
The Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance has rejected Salam’s 8-8-8 Cabinet formula, which would be equally shared by the rival factions and centrists. The formula, which calls for the rotation of key portfolios among parliamentary blocs, denies veto power to any party.
Instead, Hezbollah and its March 8 allies are pushing for a 9-9-6 Cabinet lineup, which has gained the support of Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, who said the 8-8-8 proposal had collapsed.
But former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, head of the parliamentary Future bloc, told The Daily Star Thursday that the Future Movement and its March 14 allies had rejected the 9-9-6 Cabinet lineup and had demanded instead the formation of a neutral, nonpartisan government as a way out of the Cabinet deadlock.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has also rejected the 9-9-6 Cabinet proposal.
“The [9-9-6] formula could not result, in the case that we accepted it, in a smooth distribution of ministerial portfolios. It will fall into the trap of the policy statement, especially when it comes to the Army, people and resistance formula which the March 14 [coalition] rejects,” Geagea told Al-Joumhouria daily.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony of party members Friday, Geagea called for the formation of a government that could protect its people.
He said that under the Constitution, the president and the prime minister-designate alone had the authority to determine the type of government and its lineup.
“No one can deprive the president and the prime minister-designate of their constitutional right to form a government and refer it to Parliament for a confidence vote,” Geagea said.
“We are in dire need of a government of real independence.”