A surprise visit to Mukhtara on Tuesday by Syrian Vice-President Abdel-Halim Khaddam will not affect Walid Jumblatt’s relations with the mainly Christian opposition to Damascus’ role in Lebanon, the Qornet Shehwan Gathering says.
Khaddam and Major General Ghazi Kenaan, the head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, were hosted by Jumblatt at his Mukhtara residence, with a range of pro-Syrian political parties asked to attend as well. Jumblatt used the event to stress the cementing of his reconciliation with Damascus and highlight his legacy of ties with Syria, repeatedly invoking the need to foil any May 17 Agreement, a reference to the aborted Israeli-Lebanese peace treaty.
Jumblatt said that “with this Lebanese-Syrian solidarity and alliance, for the sake of dialogue and civil peace … for the sake of Lebanon’s Arabism, consolidating the Taif Accord and defending the national and Islamic resistance, we are not afraid, no matter how great the storms and clouds” affecting the region.
However, Jbeil MP Fares Soueid told The Daily Star that the visit, full of praise for Syria’s role in Lebanon, would not disturb Jumblatt’s position as a leading advocate of sounder ties between Beirut and Damascus.
“It’s natural for a politician to maintain contacts with all parties,” Soueid said.
The MP is a member of the Qornet Shehwan Gathering, which has been vociferous in calling for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and state-to-state ties based on what is describes as mutual respect.
“We don’t ask Jumblatt to take the same positions that we do, although there are many points that we have in common,” Soueid said.
“And we’re not against solidarity with Syria, especially now, with the difficult circumstances the region is facing,” the MP continued.
Soueid reiterated the group’s position that Lebanon should be free, sovereign and independent, saying that this call should be “added” to the initiative undertaken by Jumblatt to host Khaddam.
“And it’s not the first time that Mukhtara has played this ‘Arab’ role,” he added.
Soueid said that Qornet Shehwan, which met on Tuesday evening, did not discuss the visit by Khaddam to Mukhtara earlier in the day, due to a preoccupation with the discovery of the body of Lebanese Forces activist Ramzi Irani and the assassination of Palestinian militant leader Jihad Jibril in Beirut.