BEIRUT: Lebanese leaders struggled Friday to stave off any adverse repercussions of the fast-moving developments in Iraq on the security situation in Lebanon, calling for national unity and the swift election of a new president.
The major military gains made by militants from the Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) have sent shockwaves across the political landscape in Lebanon, which is already suffering from a bloody spillover of Syria’s civil war.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour, a close aide to MP Walid Jumblatt, met former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Morocco.
During the meeting, Hariri spoke by telephone with Jumblatt and it was agreed that the two leaders would meet in Paris at a later date, according to a statement released by Hariri’s office.
Abu Faour also carried “ideas” on how to break the presidential election deadlock that he had discussed with Speaker Nabih Berri before flying to Morocco, a political source told The Daily Star.
Earlier this week, Jumblatt told Al-Arabiya TV he would inform Hariri that he would vote for neither Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea nor Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun.
Lebanese concerns over the events in Iraq stem from the fact that ISIS and other Al-Qaeda-linked groups claimed responsibility for the deadly car bombings and suicide attacks earlier this year that targeted areas where Hezbollah enjoys broad support, in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the Bekaa region, in response to the party’s military intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad.
Berri warned of the grave developments in Iraq, calling for measures to shield Lebanon against any negative fallout.
“I hope that what is happening there will constitute an incentive for us as Lebanese of all [political] trends to close ranks in order to protect Lebanon and shield it against the region’s storms,” Berri told As-Safir newspaper.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam also voiced concerns over ISIS’ military advances, saying the Cabinet reviewed the situation during its Thursday meeting, but did not discuss taking any specific measures.
“Everyone knows that any regional development will reflect on Lebanon. If it is positive, it will reflect positively on Lebanon. If it is negative, it will reflect negatively on us,” Salam said in remarks published by As-Safir.
Jumblatt called for facing the repercussions of what he termed ISIS’ “horrible invasion” by quickly electing a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25.
“We need to protect our internal situation by swiftly electing a president,” Jumblatt said in remarks published by As-Safir. “And also by quickly trying to limit the damage and reverberations ... because definitely there will be repercussions on Lebanon following this suspicious and horrible invasion by the ISIS.”
Separately, Aoun telephoned Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai to discuss the presidential election stalemate, as media reported that Rai was planning to hold an inter-Maronite reconciliation beginning with a meeting between Aoun and Geagea.
Aoun telephoned Geagea Friday to extend his condolences over the death of the LF leader’s father.