Politicians and officials in a number of countries are busy with preparations for the Geneva II peace conference for Syria, and Lebanon is no exception.
Of course, the meeting might not be convened in the end, as Syria’s opposition continues to insist on guarantees that the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad be a key part of the Geneva II agenda, and not an afterthought or something to be addressed later.
Meanwhile, Lebanese officials have begun talking up the possibility that Beirut will make an appearance at Geneva, in the latest example of how to distinguish between theory and practice.
In theory, Lebanon should go to Geneva II. Lebanon is the country that is most directly concerned with the political fallout of the war in Syria, and the country that has been forced to put up with the most detrimental effects of the horrific humanitarian cost of the war.
In theory, Lebanon has adhered to a policy of disassociation on the Syria crisis, which it declared relatively early in the conflict.
In theory, Lebanon is the Syrian neighbor whose point of view should be taken into consideration by the parties represented at Geneva II, if it takes place, and it is the country that is most concerned with monitoring the impact and repercussions of what is agreed at such an international gathering.
But in practice, the statements from politicians in the run-up to Geneva II have not been encouraging.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has signaled how important it would be for Lebanon to attend, citing the arguments above. But he has also failed to mention how the policy of disassociation has been nearly impossible to enforce for Lebanon as a country. Some officials and institutions might have adhered to the policy of neutrality, but major actors in Lebanon have not, and there is little that the government can do about these breaches.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour Friday offered a series of observations on the proposed Geneva II conference and the need for Lebanon to attend. In practice, seeing Mansour make an appearance at Geneva II would not bode well for Lebanon.
People who pay attention to such things are well aware that throughout the crisis in Syria, Mansour has adopted the viewpoint of the Syrian authorities, and not represented Lebanon’s national interests or agreed-upon policies, such as disassociation.
When there are reports of cross-border violations by Syria, Mansour becomes a profound skeptic, who prefers to wait for the official view from Damascus before speaking authoritatively on the issue. Even when President Michel Sleiman asks the Foreign Ministry to issue an official complaint over such breaches, Mansour ignores the directives.
In practice, Lebanon’s attendance at Geneva II will require, once and for all, a coherent government stance, and not the usual confusion, division and efforts to sweep things under the carpet.