BEIRUT: Lebanon needs to be represented in the Geneva II peace talks on Syria, Speaker Nabih Berri said in remarks published Tuesday.
The speaker, in separate remarks to another local daily, also slammed the caretaker prime minister over the failure to convene Parliament and the resigned government.
“This participation should be necessary and inevitable because the Syrian flames have reached the Lebanese sides,” Berri told An-Nahar daily.
“Are we supposed to just watch these flames in the presence of almost 2 million Syrians and Palestinians that took refuge in our country?” he added.
Berri also said during the the expected Geneva II peace conference Lebanon should address the influx of refugees into the country.
“Doesn’t [this] deserve to be addressed in Geneva in order for the international community and major countries to assume responsibility of the refugees?” he asked.
Nov. 23, 2013, is the date that several officials, including Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, have said they expect Geneva II to convene, although the U.S., Russia and the United Nations have all said that no date has been officially set.
Last week, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati signaled that Lebanon might attend the Geneva II peace conference.
Lebanon has also been facing major difficulties coping with over 800,000 Syrian refugees registered with the UNHCR, the agency responsible for Syrian refugees in the country. However, Lebanese officials have stated the presence of more than a million refugees in the country.
In separate remarks to As-Safir daily, Berri slammed Mikati over obstructing Parliament and Cabinet.
“It is not normal or acceptable for the legislative branch to become a hostage to the mood of the prime minister, regardless of who he is, in such a way that when he resigns, he could obstruct Parliament as well as more than 30 public administrations affiliated with the premiership,” Berri said.
He said he already vowed not to allow Mikati’s resignation from Cabinet in March to obstruct the work of Parliament, “which is greater than all of us.”
Berri also slammed other parliamentary blocs who have been boycotting Parliament and said that they are obstructing the legislature just because he is the speaker.
“The fact that I am the head of Parliament does not mean that I am the Parliament. Therefore, it is not acceptable to approach the Parliament’s role based on some parties’ stances on me,” he said.
Several parliamentary blocs, including the Lebanese Forces, the Future bloc, the Free Patriotic Movement, as well as Mikati have been boycotting Parliament and urging Berri to amend the sessions’ agenda arguing that the house, in its extended term, should only deal with urgent legislation.