BEIRUT: As the country marked Army Day Friday, Lebanese politicians emphasized the importance of preserving the strength and unity of the national military as the region sinks deeper into turmoil.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri congratulated Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi on the occasion and stressed the need to gather around an institution that represents state sovereignty.
“This institution shall remain a haven for all the Lebanese in face of the current challenges, and a title to the exclusiveness of authority in the hands of the state and its legitimate institutions,” Hariri told Kahwagi in a phone call.
But he also noted that the celebrations were bittersweet.
“All Lebanese and the Army are saddened that they have to celebrate this annual occasion, which is marked every first of August without a
president, as vacuum continues to persist in this post,” said the Future Movement leader.
“This is as well as political leaders’ immobility and lack of initiative to end the presidential vacuum.”
Sidon MP Bahia Hariri also expressed her support for the military.
“We emphasize our continuous support for the Army in every mission they undertake to protect Lebanese soil, citizens and institutions,” Hariri said in a statement released Friday.
She also called on the public to support this institution in the wake of the ongoing regional turbulence.
“Amid the sensitive times that the region is going through that might prove dangerous for Lebanon, all Lebanese are expected to gather around their government, security and military institutions.”
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also saluted the Army’s leadership and members, expressing respect for the martyrs who had fallen while performing their duties.
For Berri, supporting the Army and increasing and developing its military equipment is a must in order to preserve the intuition’s strength. The
Amal Movement leader also hailed “the Army’s handling of both the security and defense responsibilities” as political difficulties continue to threaten stability.
“Safe-guarding the security and stability of Lebanon and the region have proven vital to confront Israeli aggression and the takfiri attacks threatening to divide the region.”
Prime Minister Tammam Salam called Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and Kahwagi to praise the Army’s efforts in “safeguarding the nation’s security and stability and enhancing unity among its people.”
He also expressed regret that Army Day was not accompanied by a celebration this year due to the presidential void, which he said took away some of the day’s symbolism. Salam called on all political parties to “put the nation’s interest above all considerations and to proceed to elect a president as soon as possible.”
In an interview Friday, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea praised Salam’s decision to avoid organizing an Army Day ceremony in light of the lack of a president, while stressing that “Army Day exists in the heart of each one of us.”
In similar developments, Former President Michel Sleiman said he was confident Lebanon would safely overcome these difficult times.
“Lebanon’s unity and its immunity against extremism will prevail because of the people’s confidence in their Army,” he said during a meeting with a delegation of officers from the Army Command.
Moqbel also greeted the Army in a statement Friday.
“The army is the hope for all Lebanese and the bridge of salvation towards civil peace,” he said. “We call on all political factions, despite their different political positions, to support the Army in its mission to save Lebanon.”
Lebanon's Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani also congratulated Kahwagi: “The Army is the guarantee for the Lebanese’ security, safety and stability, especially in difficult consequences in the country.”
He called on the Lebanese people to “reduce the intensity of the conflicts and the hate speech that threatens to enter the country in light of the waves of extremism in which the region has fallen.”
Congratulations for Army Day Friday were also voiced by Amal Movement MP Hani Kobeissi.
“Most of the times, terrorism hits the Army and security forces, but the mission to fight this terrorism is a burden on all Lebanese,” Kobeissi said. He recalled the essential role that the Army had played and continued to play in the south to counter Israeli aggressions.
LF MP Fadi Karam also added his voice to the various Lebanese officials in greeting the military institution on its day: “[We hope] next year to have a full celebration with the presence of a strong president.”