President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt’s Monday meeting was an attempt to create a centrist political force in Lebanon.
The Baabda Palace get-together was directly connected to Sleiman’s weekend decision to cancel the National Dialogue session scheduled for the same day. The Future Movement is currently boycotting National Dialogue and all sessions of Parliament attended by Cabinet members.
The attempt by the three leaders to bridge the gap between the country’s two rival political camps, March 8 and March 14, comes during a breakdown in communication between the sides.
A source told The Daily Star that Sleiman, Mikati and Jumblatt agreed centrism was the most feasible way out of Lebanon’s troubles, as consultations with powerful diplomats suggest Lebanon could not be left to either of the two camps. Foreign diplomats say their countries would support an independent and centrist political camp that addresses the concerns of a wide range of Lebanese who do not associate with the divide.
Monday’s meeting will be followed by many more between the three men, who hope to find a way out of the current political stalemate.
Among the topics of discussion were attempts to foster agreement on a new electoral law, National Dialogue, and the possibility of a change in government. Mikati promised that if March 14 and March 8 agreed on a new electoral law during the Tuesday meeting of the parliamentary subcommittee on electoral reform, he would resign and allow the president to begin consultations for forming a caretaker government to oversee the upcoming elections.
The leaders also discussed the recent reconciliation between Druze and Christians in Mount Lebanon. Jumblatt briefed the others on the issue, and gave Sleiman and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai credit for their role in the process that was started by former Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir’s 2001 historic visit to Mount Lebanon.
Jumblatt also informed Sleiman and Mikati of the Ministry of the Displaced’s plans for Brih, and asked Sleiman to be the patron of a Brih celebration to commemorate the occasion.
In addition, the three leaders expressed alarm at the lack of international and Arab support expressed so far for the Cabinet’s plan to deal with Syrian refugees.
They also spoke of the Syrian crisis, and in light of reports that international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s mission to find a political solution has failed, the men expressed further support for the Baabda Declaration and Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from events in its troubled neighbor.