Although MP Walid Jumblatt’s relations with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri have gone through ups and downs in past years, signs have emerged that the two leaders will meet soon to discuss the presidential vacuum, the Cabinet’s work and parliamentary elections scheduled in November, political sources said.
The sources said preparations were already underway to arrange for the meeting between the head of the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party leader to be held in Paris. They noted that the Future Movement and the PSP had forged an electoral alliance in previous parliamentary elections in the Chouf mountains.
While no date has been set for the Paris talks, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour from Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc said recently that there was nothing that could prevent the two leaders from meeting, given the political relationship and personal friendship between them.
Relations between Hariri and Jumblatt were further boosted following the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri when the PSP chief emerged as the spearhead of the March 14 movement’s “independence uprising” which demanded the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon, after nearly three decades of controlling the country.
Jumblatt also played the role of the “godfather” of Saad Hariri during the transitional period that paved the way for the latter to take over his slain father’s political mantle.
Sources close to Jumblatt said “the talk about restoration of ties between Jumblatt and Hariri to what they were in the past is unacceptable because the relationship between the two sides has never been severed.”
“This relationship is based on strategic goals. The two leaders disagreed over the means to implement these goals as a result of political developments the country had experienced,” the sources said.
Despite some snags in their relations, the sources said, “Jumblatt has upheld his friendship with Hariri, especially the two are at the vanguard of those calling for moderate options.”
While Lebanon slipped into the presidency vacuum following lawmakers’ repeated failure to choose a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun’s meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri at the latter’s residence in Ain al-Tineh last week has raised questions about its possible outcome with regard to the Cabinet’s work and legislation in Parliament after major Christian parties have vowed to boycott legislative sessions while the presidency seat remained vacant.
In addition to the planned Hariri-Jumblatt meeting, political sources said Paris is expected to witness visits by Lebanese political leaders to consult with Hariri on the presidential election deadlock and the outcome of the ongoing contacts between the FPM and the Future Movement.
Nader Hariri, chief of Hariri’s office, who maintains contacts with the FPM through Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, flew to Morocco last week and met with Hariri to brief him on the talks between the two sides, the sources said.
They added that Aoun, who is presenting himself as a consensus candidate for the presidency, might send an official from the FPM to Paris in an attempt to get Hariri’s answer concerning the Future support for his nomination to the top Christian post.