Jumblat Calls for Exchange between Arsal Captives, Roumieh Prisoners to End Abduction Ordealإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat called on Wednesday for a swift exchange between the Arsal captives and Roumieh prison Islamist inmates, holding former Internal Security Forces personnel responsible for the “self-rule” at the facility.
“The government and crisis cell should follow up any exchange process with the kidnappers,” Jumblat said in an interview with An Nahar newspaper.
He denied any previous knowledge of the conditions set by the jihadists, who kidnapped a batch of soldiers after withdrawing from the northeastern border town of Arsal in August.
The jihadists from al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group engaged in bloody gunbattles with the army in Arsal last month and took with them hostages from the military and police.
The militants executed three of them and threatened to kill more hostages if the Lebanese government did not meet their demands.
“The army is strong and its morals are high but the political circumstances compel us to make some compromises,” Jumblat said.
He considered that the situation in Arsal will not deteriorate again, calling for “practical measures” to safeguard the situation in the area.
Media reports have said that the jihadists have a list of demands, including the withdrawal of Hizbullah from battles in Syria and the release of ten Syrian inmates held at Roumieh prison in return for each captive soldier and policeman.
Concerning the extension of the parliament's tenure, the Druze leader described it as a de-facto, voicing his support to extending the legislature's mandate until a new head of state is elected.
He revealed to his interviewer that he is consulting Speaker Nabih Berri regarding the matter, saying: “I don't take decisions without knowing his opinion.”
“We cannot reach vacuum, which the speaker rejects... We will be forced to extend the parliament's term, it is impossible to stage polls without a president,” Jumblat said when asked about Berri's stance regarding the extension.
He pointed out that the political arch-foes are responsible for the vacancy at the Baabda Palace, holding onto his presidency candidate Democratic Gathering MP Henry Helou.
The PSP leader called for consensus between the rival parties to elect a new head of state.
He noted that he will visit Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea next week at his residence in Maarab.
“If a miracle occurred and the Lebanese agreed on electing a new head of state we will stage the parliamentary polls afterwards,” Jumblat added.
He criticized those who call him a “touchstone,” saying: “This description annoys me and I reject it as it indicates that I am impeding the elections.”
Jumblat had already met with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and Kataeb chief Amin Gemayel.
Parliament has been unable to legislate over the boycott of several blocs, including the March 14 alliance's lawmakers and Change and Reform MPs. The paralysis is linked to the presidential deadlock.
The majority of the March 8 alliance's MPs have been causing a lack of quorum in sessions aimed at electing a president, leaving the country without a head of state.
President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended in May and the parliament's mandate, which was extended last year, expires in November. Some blocs are backing a second extension while others are rejecting it.