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Jumblatt not mending fences with Damascus

Walid Jumblatt attends a ceremony in Beirut, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt’s recent meetings with the major figures of the resistance camp in Lebanon are part of his broader attempt to melt the ice that has settled over the political scene in Lebanon, said sources close to PSP leader. Jumblatt has succeeded in closing the gap between the Amal and Future Movements, which has led to the resolution of some issues and could even lead to an agreement on the salary scale in the coming days, they said.

The sources denied that his recent sit-down with Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and before that with the former director general of General Security, Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed, were convened in order to mend Jumblatt’s relationship with Damascus.

Jumblatt would never go back on his decision to stand by the Syrian people, making any contact with Damascus pointless, the sources insisted.

They pointed out that Jumblatt and Hezbollah have already overcome their differences on this issue, and they still cooperate, although before the most recent meeting, Nasrallah and Jumblatt had not met personally in over three years.

The two political leaders did not discuss presidential candidates, because Jumblatt knows that Nasrallah has not changed his mind on supporting his ally Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun’s presidential ambitions. But this did not prevent the two from agreeing that the polls should be held as soon as possible. Both were keen for the vacancy in the presidency to not cripple other Constitutional institutions, especially Parliament and the Cabinet.

Consensus in this regard is especially vital if, as seems increasingly inevitable, a president is not elected by Aug. 20 and parliamentary polls are held before the presidential election.

Political will is required in order to secure the quorum needed for Parliament to agree on the duration of its extension and vote on it.

The sources also said that the two men discussed security coordination between the PSP and Hezbollah, with both expressing satisfaction with the prevailing atmosphere in this regard and stressing the importance of continued cooperation.

Quite a bit of time was dedicated to discussing the crisis in Gaza, the sources said, due to the seriousness of the situation and its possible repercussions for Lebanon and the region if the Israeli onslaught continues, abetted by the silence of the Arab and international communities.

For their part, FPM sources denied that Aoun views Jumblatt’s meeting with his allies as a threat to his presidential aspirations.

“The mutual trust between Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and Gen. Aoun, on most issues and files, and not just on the presidential issue, cannot be undermined by any meeting or developments,” they said.

They emphasized that the issue of the presidential election may not be resolved for a long time if the major decision makers are not convinced by the legitimacy of Aoun’s bid, despite his support in Parliament and among his Christian base.

The sources added that Aoun’s current mood was not amenable to a breakthrough on the presidential standoff, and Aoun was aware that the resistance front, of which he is a member, must win the battle and have the last word in the presidential elections, and that this might take some time.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 31, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt's recent meetings with the major figures of the resistance camp in Lebanon are part of his broader attempt to melt the ice that has settled over the political scene in Lebanon, said sources close to PSP leader.

Gen. Jamil Sayyed, were convened in order to mend Jumblatt's relationship with Damascus.

The two political leaders did not discuss presidential candidates, because Jumblatt knows that Nasrallah has not changed his mind on supporting his ally Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun's presidential ambitions.

The sources added that Aoun's current mood was not amenable to a breakthrough on the presidential standoff, and Aoun was aware that the resistance front, of which he is a member, must win the battle and have the last word in the presidential elections, and that this might take some time.


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