President Michel Aoun on Thursday ended the Cabinet's first session after the ordinary agenda was discussed and after a heated debate erupted over the thorny issue of the relation with Syria.
“The President stressed the need for the return of Syrian refugees to their country without linking the issue to the political solution and we can only approach the issue in a serious manner,” Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said after the session.
State Minister for Administrative Development Affairs May Chidiac of the Lebanese Forces said “the President ended the session when a heated debate erupted without giving the ministers who requested to speak the permission to do so.”
“Everyone supports the return of the refugees, but does the Syrian regime really want them to return?” Chidiac asked.
“We are dismayed over the normalization of tied with Syria and Prime Minister Saad Hariri was also dismayed over everything, including the issue of the Tripoli parliamentary vote appeal,” the minister added.
State Minister for Refugee Affairs Saleh al-Gharib meanwhile said that he visited Syria to “serve the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese” and “with the knowledge of all the relevant parties.”
“Nothing will deter us from performing our duty in order to turn the page on the past,” he added.
“We clarified that we did not go to Syria to be part of an axis,” Gharib said, expressing keenness on “governmental solidarity.”
“We stressed that we reject the intimidation campaign against us in the media and Syria's visit is not an accusation. We said that we would visit Syria and this is what happened,” he went on to say.
Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab meanwhile reiterated that Hariri had tasked him to represent him at the Munich security conference.
“I put him in the picture of the conference and I did not violate the government's Policy Statement,” Bou Saab stressed.
“The LF's ministers announced their stance on the issue of the relations with Syria and criticized my stance in Munich, but I was not allowed to respond because President Aoun ended the session,” the minister added.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil of the AMAL Movement meanwhile said that he stressed the need to “expand relations with Syria to the maximum level, primarily for the sake of Lebanon and because the constitution calls for that.”
Thursday's was the Cabinet's first meeting since gaining a vote of confidence in Parliament last week.
Aoun chaired the meeting in the presence of Hariri. As per custom, the two held a closed-door meeting before the session.
Before the session, Chidiac had said that she was going to raise the issue of Gharib's controversial visit to Syria.
Gharib visited Syria early this week, a move that raised controversy. Discussions in Syria focused on the issue of the return of Syrian refugees.
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