BEIRUT: The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon said Monday the implementation of U.N. resolutions and the Baabda Declaration was crucial for the country as attempts to form a new Cabinet remain stymied by conflicting demands over the shape of the government.
Ambassador David Hale made the statement after meeting Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun as part of his routine calls on the country’s rival political leaders.
Since his arrival in Beirut last month, Hale has met with President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, among others.
His remarks come as the Baabda Declaration is currently at the center of a widening row between the March 14 coalition, which is pressing for the pact to be adopted as a policy statement of a new Cabinet, and the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, which wants to see the “Army, people and resistance” formula remain in the next government’s ministerial statement.
“Certainly we in the United States believe that Lebanon will only achieve lasting stability with the full implementation of all outstanding U.N. Security Council Resolutions and with all parties abiding by those provisions as well as those of the Baabda Declaration,” Hale said after holding talks with Aoun, according to a U.S. Embassy statement.
“That is not the case today, but it can and must be in the future if the Lebanese are to achieve their goals of a normal, stable, secure, and prosperous country,” he said, adding that he was optimistic that “the Lebanese have the resilience and capacity to fulfill that vision.”
In addition to the Baabda Declaration, Hale said he had discussed with Aoun, Hezbollah’s key Christian ally, outstanding Security Council resolutions, such as 1701.
Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war with Israel, stipulates, among other things, the disarmament of all armed militias in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.
Hale said that as the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon he wanted to meet and engage with everyone “and understand all Lebanese perspectives, whether we share those views or not.”
“I am here in Lebanon to listen to all sides. One important area of agreement today with Gen. Aoun was our shared emphasis on supporting Lebanon’s constitutional practices, institutions, and traditions,” Hale said.
The Baabda Declaration, agreed upon by rival March 8 and March 14 leaders during a National Dialogue session in June 2012, calls for distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts, particularly the war in Syria.
Hezbollah and its March 8 allies have criticized the declaration. MP Mohammad Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, said the declaration was “stillborn.”
Salam, who has been struggling for more than five months to form a government, received a letter of solidarity from France.
The letter was delivered by the French Ambassador to Lebanon Patrice Paoli who called for the formation of “a consensus government” capable of uniting the Lebanese and confronting challenges faced by Lebanon as a result of regional developments.
“I visited Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and conveyed to him a letter of solidarity from France with Lebanon following all the tragedies in the country during this summer,” Paoli said after meeting Salam in Moseitbeh. “We expressed our solidarity with Lebanon and the Lebanese and affirmed that France is always ready to be on Lebanon’s side,” he added.
As the six-month Cabinet crisis dragged on with no solution in sight, Mikati and the Kataeb Party issued separate calls for an internal consensus to accelerate the formation of a new government.
Speaking to visitors at the Grand Serail, Mikati underlined the need for all the parties to adopt a positive stance to agree on the creation of a new Cabinet.
“If the current conditions persisted, this would increase challenges and further complicate issues under discussion, particularly at the socio-economic and financial levels,” he said.He said he delayed announcing his own political initiative to break the Cabinet impasse, waiting for the results of Berri’s initiative.
Mikati, who had planned to launch his initiative this week, said inter-Lebanese dialogue was badly needed to resolve divisive issues.
The Kataeb Party said the turmoil in the region should be an incentive for the feuding parties to reach an internal consensus aimed at quickly forming a government capable of constituting “a safety net for Lebanon and a protective umbrella against the repercussions of regional developments.”
A statement issued after a meeting of the party’s Political Bureau chaired by former President Amin Gemayel implicitly slammed Hezbollah and its March 8 allies for renouncing the Baabda Declaration.
Meanwhile, a delegation from Berri’s parliamentary bloc met with former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as part of its calls on rival factions to brief them on the speaker’s initiative to revive National Dialogue and break the Cabinet stalemate.
The meeting was attended by Future MPs Ahmad Fatfat, Samir Jisr, Nuhad Mashnouq and Atef Majdalani. “The meeting was good and dominated by an atmosphere of frankness and responsibility,” Jisr said.
The delegation, comprising MPs Michel Musa, Yassin Jaber and Ali Bazzi, later met with Aoun in Rabieh. NBN TV, affiliated with Berri, said Aoun supported the speaker’s dialogue initiative without voicing any reservations.
However, Siniora, head of the parliamentary Future bloc, sounded skeptical about Berri’s initiative, telling The Daily Star Sunday that it would not achieve a breakthrough in the political deadlock.