BEIRUT: Local and international officials congratulated Lebanon over the weekend on forming a government after an 11-month political deadlock, with foreign powers calling for sustaining the country’s disassociation policy. Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai praised the move, hoping it signaled “a new beginning for Lebanon based on national principles.”
Speaking at St. Maroun Church in Rome, Rai said he had been praying for a new Cabinet to “commence the launch of finding solutions to the many crises in Lebanon and contribute to making the way for presidential elections in line with the constitutional schedule.”
Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel said Sunday that his party would not tolerate any attempt to undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and that Hezbollah “will be confronted” in the new government.
“The Kataeb [decided to] participate in the government to ensure we hold on to Lebanese sovereignty and there is no compromise on that,” Gemayel said during a news conference in Bikfaya, adding that an all-embracing Cabinet was necessary given the challenges facing Lebanon.
Head of the Change and Reform bloc MP Michel Aoun said that the new government was “key” to normalizing relations between Lebanon’s sects “after a long break between the various components in the country.”
Prime Minister Tammam Salam announced Lebanon’s new government over the weekend after nearly a year of deliberation and political bickering between the country’s rival groups.
Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati expressed hope that the new government would reflect positively on Lebanon, adding that “the political, security and economic challenges we are facing at this sensitive time are numerous and require cooperation from everyone, in order to fortify the nation and protect it from dangers.”
However, some members of the March 8 bloc expressed disappointment at the concessions their group had to make.
Former General Security chief Jamil al-Sayyed announced over the weekend that he would be “cutting his consultative ties” with the March 8 camp following the appointment of retired Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi as justice minister.
According to a statement, Sayyed explained that “there is no moral or logical reason that justifies March 8 and its allies to give away the Justice Ministry,” especially since it the decision comes from the same group that opposed the extension of Rifi’s term as head of the Internal Security Forces.
Head of the Arab Tawhid Party Wiam Wahhab congratulated former Prime Minister Saad Hariri for supporting his allies, accusing the March 8 of not standing by its own.
“I congratulate Hariri with all my heart because he is a bold man who stands honestly with his team,” he told Al-Jadeed TV, adding that the “March 8 bloc’s management of the debate was bad and its performance did not convince me.”
Meanwhile, European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton welcomed Lebanon’s government formation, which she called a “key step” to tackle the country’s political and security challenges.
In a statement, Ashton voiced hope that the new government would maintain the peace in the country through “the reassertion of a policy of dissociation from the Syrian conflict” and “upholding the spirit of the Baabda Declaration and the culture of dialogue.”
The United States Embassy in Lebanon also greeted the new Cabinet positively.
“We have long said that the people of #Lebanon deserve a government that responds to their needs and protects their interests,” it said on Twitter.
“We look to today’s announcement to be important first step in addressing the political uncertainty that has hampered Lebanon in recent years,” it added, calling to uphold Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from the Syrian conflict.
British Foreign Minister William Hague told Salam that his country was looking forward to working with the members of the newly formed Cabinet “in their quest to address the main challenges and the main opportunities faced by the country at this moment,” as well as to fight terrorism and help Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
For his part, French President Francois Hollande said he hoped “the same spirit of responsibility would prevail with the coming constitutional deadlines” especially with the presidential elections.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also issued a statement praising Lebanon’s new Cabinet. In a phone call with Salam, he assured the prime minister that France “would stand by Lebanon and all of the Lebanese people to cope with the many challenges they face.”
U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly also released a statement on behalf of the International Support Group for Lebanon, “warmly” welcoming the new government and stressing the need for it to be able to “act effectively” to address the challenges it is facing.
The group also stressed the implementation of various Security Council resolutions, particularly Resolution 1701, and the Baabda Declaration.