BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman urged rival members of the National Dialogue Committee Saturday to back down on their stances vis-a-vis the multi-party talks and called on them to place Lebanon’s interests above all others.
“[He] urged that rival parties abandon their stances, whether concerning the refusal on [discussing] the primary and sole subject on the agenda [national defense strategy] or that this issue be decided [even] before it is discussed during the meeting,” Sleiman said, according to a statement from his office, apparently referring to Hezbollah and the March 14 coalition respective stances.
Two National Dialogue sessions have been held since Sleiman re-launched them in June. One scheduled for July 24 was thrown into doubt this week after Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad said it was premature to hold any talks on the topic of a national defense strategy before a total liberation from Israeli occupation. Hezbollah’s stance in turn prompted the opposition group to boycott the talks.
Sources told The Daily Star Friday that Sleiman is engaging in discussions with politicians from the March 14 camp, in a bid to convince them to attend Tuesday’s meeting, but has no intention of postponing or canceling the session.
In his statement Saturday, Sleima said rival parties needed to place Lebanon’s higher interests first and to work toward upholding its dissociation policy towards developments in Syria.
“Sleiman called on political leaders, particularly those among the National Dialogue Committee, to consider the nation’s higher interests before any others and to work toward safeguarding civil peace to maintain the country’s dissociation policy from the repercussions of what is occurring in our environs,” the statement said.
Sleiman described the National Dialogue Committee as a “political and security umbrella given the current situation” and said parties needed to hold talks with “open hearts and minds on all matters of dispute.”
The president said that the “Lebanese experience as well of those around it demonstrate that there is no alternative to dialogue among the main political parties to reach solutions to the proposed issues.”
Sleiman expressed hope that the rival groups would take into consideration the “existing information, meet and hold talks in the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese, and that the prevailing stability situation should provide an incentive to work toward maintaining and solidifying it.”