BEIRUT: Rival Lebanese parties largely upheld an agreement to halt the war of words over the disputed issue of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) Friday in a bid to ease tensions pending further regional and internal talks.
In line with Lebanese efforts to put an end to the standoff between Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s coalition and Hizbullah, Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader MP Walid Jumblatt is scheduled to hold talks Sunday with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus.
Jumblatt’s visit follows discussions this week between Speaker Nabih Berri and Assad, during which the latter encouraged Berri to broker a compromise between Hariri and Hizbullah, Berri’s spokesman said.
PSP official and Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi told The Daily Star Friday that despite the positive climate between Syria and Saudi Arabia, a “profound crisis of trust” existed between Hizbullah and Hariri.
However, in surprise statements that followed Sunday’s Syrian-Saudi summit that reportedly led to an agreement to preserve stability in Lebanon, Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al-Otari said that the March 14 coalition was a house of cards.
“We do not take into consideration 14, 15 or 16 since those are a house of cards but we look at the Lebanese people, the security of Syria and Lebanon as well as strategic ties between both countries,” Otari said in remarks to be published by the daily Kuwaiti al-Rai.
Asked whether threats by Syria’s ally in Lebanon to turn the tables to counter the STL indictment embarrassed Damascus amid a Syrian-Saudi agreement to preserve stability in Lebanon, Otari said Syria deals with the Lebanese state rather than with political parties.
Otari added that Syria has agreed with President Michel Sleiman on guidelines for bilateral relations, which are being followed. “Whereas disputes between Lebanese parties fade away since the case between Lebanese parties is that they disagree and fight in the morning and get together at night to smoke narguileh,” Otari said.
But the US assistant secretary of state for Middle Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, said Hizbullah, an ally of Syria, sought to impose on the Lebanese a choice between stability and justice.
Feltman said statements by Hizbullah, and not the STL, were behind the rise in instability in Lebanon.
Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel told The Daily Star that neither the Lebanese nor Arab states could influence the course of the STL while the country could fall into an abyss due to Hizbullah’s negative position.
Hizbullah has condemned the STL as an “Israeli project,” saying the UN-backed tribunal has fabricated an indictment falsely accusing its members of involvement in the murder of former Premier Rafik Hariri in attempt to target the resistance.
Tyre MP Nawaf Musawi, a Hizbullah official, said his party would regard those who support the STL indictment as “Zionist aggressors” and would face the same fate as Israeli occupiers.
In remarks published by the daily pan-Arab Al-Hayat Friday, Feltman said that an absence of justice would lead to instability, arguing against the idea that instability and justice were mutually exclusive. Feltman said Hizbullah and other groups were seeking to impose such a choice on the Lebanese.