BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk and Speaker Nabih Berri spoke Monday on the security situation in the border town of Arsal, and on ways to beef up national security and civil peace.
“Consultation with Speaker Berri is always more than necessary. Discussions today focused specifically on the security situation, notably in Arsal and the Bekaa,” Machnouk said after the meeting, according to the National News Agency (NNA).
Machnouk, who represents the Future Movement in PM Tammam Salam’s Cabinet, stressed that Arsal’s security remains an “exclusive priority” for the government, following the showdown that pitted the Army against takfiri militants from Syria earlier this month.
“It is the government’s duty and task to work on reinforcing security in the region of Arsal and boost civil peace there,” Machnouk said.
“The speaker was the first to call for investing in national security. I felt it is my duty to visit him and consult him on that issue in general, and the developments in Arsal in particular, especially on ways to rectify the situation there,” he said, adding that Berri was contemplating several options regarding Arsal. He gave no further details regarding the potential action the government would take.
Berri is head of the Amal Movement, part of the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition which opposes the March 14 camp led by the Future Movement.
At least 60 militants and 19 soldiers were killed in the five days of clashes, which erupted on Aug. 2 after militants from Syria’s Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) overran Arsal, a town on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria. The militants pulled out a week later under an agreement brokered by the Committee of Muslim Scholars but took 29 captured security and Army personnel with them.
The militants have placed conditions to free the Lebanese personnel, including the release of militant leader Imad Ahmed Jomaa whose arrest by the Army had triggered the Arsal showdown, and other Islamist prisoners.