BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the validity of Lebanon’s disassociation policy from events in Syria would be borne out once the crisis ended, Al-Joumhouria reported Tuesday.
Mikati also observed that, as a result of the growing rift between Syria and much of the Arab world, Lebanon finds itself in a quandary.
“They do not realize that taking a position [against Syria] would hurt our geopolitical interests, while being against Arabs would force us to lose in several ways,” Mikati told the newspaper.
“All this leads us to consider that the disassociation policy is the right policy. It will be proven to the Lebanese after the storm has passed that this policy was the best,” he added.
Mikati also noted that Lebanon cannot be in conflict with neighboring Syria given bilateral economic and political agreements between the two countries, stressing that this aspect of the relationship should not be ignored.
As for the country’s relationship with Arab countries, which have almost unanimously voiced their opposition to President Bashar Assad, Mikati said: “If we take a position contrary to the Arab will, I fear that our excellent relationship with Arab countries might be affected.”
But the prime minister noted that his government’s policy to disassociate Lebanon from growing regional and international pressure on Assad does not affect the country’s humanitarian aid to the thousands of Syrian refugees on Lebanese soil.
“We disassociate ourselves politically but we don't disassociate from the needs of our Syrian brethren and our humanity,” Mikati said.
There are 6,916 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, with most concentrated in the Akkar region, according to the Social Affairs Ministry. Around 200 families take refuge in the country on a weekly basis.
Mikati also spoke about his improved relationship with head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Michel Aoun. Aoun and Mikati’s relationship worsened after the latter decided to suspend Cabinet sessions following disputes with Change and Reform bloc ministers over civil service appointments and over former Labor Minister Charbel Nahhas’ refusal to sign a Cabinet decree.
The latter issue was resolved when Nahhas resigned and Aoun nominated Salim Jreissati, a retired judge, to replace him. Jreissati has since been appointed labor minister.
Of his interaction with Aoun, Mikati observed, "The relationship is good and after what happened with Aoun, I now respect his approach. He is a man of principle."