BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said over the weekend that his understanding with Hezbollah was still intact and defended the resistance group's intervention in Syria, saying it aimed at preventing a civil war in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
He also said that his recent meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri was part of an initiative to show openness to all countries.
“The understanding with Hezbollah still exists on the strategic level. We are convinced that under the current circumstances, the resistance deters Israel and this preserves our security,” Aoun told Radio Monte Carlo Saturday.
In a rare move, Aoun, who signed a memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah in 2006, hosted Asiri for dinner last week. Ties between the FPM and Saudi Arabia, a major backer of the March 14 coalition, have been strained over the past years.
The visit came as Aoun’s relationship with Hezbollah and other March 8 allies experienced tension.
Aoun received later in the week Iran and Syria’s ambassadors to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi and Ali Abdel-Karim Ali respectively.
Aoun said his recent meetings with diplomats reflected an initiative to show openness toward all sides.
“Based on this initiative, there will be dialogue over problems in Lebanon resulting from the situation in the Middle East ... maybe we will propose some ideas that can help bringing rival groups together, “ Aoun said.
The FPM leader denied that his group’s ties with Saudi Arabia were tense.
He also explained that Hezbollah had interfered in Syria after the government failed to control the border, enabling Syrian rebels to move freely in and out of Lebanon.
“The border stretching from Arsal to Akkar was abandoned, leading to Syrian rebels crossing in and from Lebanon. This almost led to a civil war between residents of Arsal and Hermel. Hezbollah then was forced to interfere in Syria and put an end to all this,” Aoun explained.
“In principle, we are against meddling in the affairs of foreign countries. But on this specific issue, there are two point of views: one saying that Hezbollah should intervene to prevent the outbreak of civil war which is approaching the Bekaa [Valley] and another that says Hezbollah should not have intervened,” he added.
Aoun said that Hezbollah was not the first Lebanese group to involve itself in the Syria crisis.
“Haven’t many Lebanese from Tripoli and Akkar gone to [fight alongside rebels in] Syria ... similarly, Hezbollah went to Syria to fight alongside the regime. Any interference [in Syria] on the part of one group will lead to interference by rival groups,” he said.
Asked to comment on the fact that Hezbollah had vowed to fight in Syrian areas other than Qusair, Aoun said: “It wants to deal with developments [in Syria] the way Turkey, Qatar and other states did. That’s its own business on which I do not comment.”