BEIRUT: March 14’s leaders urged Hezbollah once again to withdraw from the Syrian conflict and called for unity among the bloc’s ranks in the coming presidential election, in a ceremony marking the ninth anniversary of the “Cedar Revolution.”
The renewed challenge to Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria and calls for the state’s supremacy in resisting Israel signaled just how deep the fissure runs between Lebanon’s two political blocs despite their joining forces in a government of “national interest.”
“To our brothers in Hezbollah I say: Withdrawing from Syria today is better than withdrawing tomorrow,” former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said during a ceremony in BIEL.
“What kind of path are you walking? Return to Lebanon, to your villages in order to save young Lebanese from falling into the fire and horror [in Syria] and return to contribute to building their country,” he added.
Standing in front of hundreds of March 14 coalition supporters and officials, Siniora addressed Hezbollah and said: “You should return to your partners in the nation because you need them and they need you now more than any other time.”
Otherwise, Hezbollah and Lebanon would be burdened with the loss, he added.
Prior to Siniora’s speech on behalf of the Future Movement, the ceremony presented photographs of the demonstrations of March 14, 2005 that led to the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from Lebanon, signaling the end of Syria’s tutelage over the country.
Attendees waved Lebanese flags and images of the movement’s leaders and politicians who were assassinated in the intervening years were repeatedly shown on screen.
The anniversary is the first to be held since the start of trials at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is tasked with prosecuting those responsible for the Feb 14, 2005 attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 other victims.
The assassination triggered the massive and founding demonstration of the March 14 coalition one month later.
Siniora, the head of the Future bloc, also said the people of south Lebanon who have sacrificed much to resist Israeli occupation should not be dragged into battles between the Syrian regime and its people.
“We will not accept the control of arms, the arms of the militias and strife, as well as all military and security action on Lebanese soil and outside of Lebanon, which are directed by foreign [parties],” Siniora said.
The Future lawmaker said March 14 was committed to the decisions of the National Dialogue, the Baabda Declaration, the policy of disassociation as well as the right of the state to defend itself against Israeli aggression.
“We will never abandon the right of the state to face and confront the Israeli enemy with all legitimate means and Lebanon’s right to sovereignty on its territory,” he said.
Speakers at Friday’s ceremony also included Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.
Geagea called on the March 14 coalition to nominate and unify behind a presidential candidate from the movement.
“The success of any individual from March 14 to assume the presidency is a victory for every one of us, and March 14’s failures in achieving this is, in turn, is a failure for every one of us,” he told the audience in a televised address.
Lebanon’s presidential election is due this spring.
Geagea is widely assumed to be eyeing the post.