Aoun Says Capable of Restoring Stability in Lebanon, Urges Unityإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun urged on Thursday the minimum amount of unity among the Lebanese to face the upcoming challenges, expressing belief that he is the only one capable of talking to all the rivals and restoring stability in the country.
“If the region reached a balanced state, then all the countries will benefit from it,” Aoun said in a lengthy interview with the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.
He noted that Lebanon is compelled to have good ties with Syria its neighbor, but stressed that the “relations shouldn't breach Lebanon's sovereignty.”
“The relationship between Lebanon and Syria is between two peoples not two regimes... the political system could change, but whatever happens, ties with Damascus should remain good... the disputes between Syria and others shouldn't be imposed on us,” Aoun said.
Asked about Hizbullah's intervention in Syria, the Christian chief said that the threats along Lebanon's border compelled it to engage in battles in Syria.
“Our border wasn't tightly controlled,” Hizbullah's main Christian ally told the newspaper, describing the party as a “resistance” that is exerting efforts to safeguard Lebanon.
Hizbullah has deployed thousands of fighters into neighboring Syria to back President Bashar Assad's army as he battles insurgents who have been trying to overthrow him since 2011.
Aoun noted that the memorandum of understanding between the FPM and Hizbullah didn't harm any component in Lebanon, stressing that “no one should be excluded.”
Hizbullah and Aoun signed their memorandum of understanding in 2006 as part of their political alliance.
Concerning the presidential crisis, Aoun expressed belief that he “is capable of talking to everyone and restoring stability in Lebanon.”
“We are not in complete harmony or disagreement over the presidential crisis,” the FPM leader said, praising the dialogue between his party and the Lebanese Forces and that between al-Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah.
Aoun said that talks are focusing on finding a common ground, citing the “relative calm” in the country since the beginning of the talks.
“Tension has been defused... it is just the beginning of the end,” he told his interviewer.
Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal officials have been meeting in Ain el-Tineh since December under the auspices of Speaker Nabih Berri to defuse sectarian hostility linked to the war in Syria. Similarly, the representatives of the LF and the FPM have been holding talks to prepare for a meeting between Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea and issue the “declaration of intent” between the two parties.
He expressed hope that he would meet Geagea “soon,” describing talks as “fruitful.”
“The veto imposed against my candidacy has been lifted,” Aoun revealed. “They should play fairly in order to find a new president,” he added.
Concerning the dispute over the extension of high-ranking security officials, the FPM chief said that “the situation in Lebanon could endure” the appointment of new figures.
He slammed the cabinet of Prime Minister Tammam Salam, saying: “If the government is incapable of appointing new officials then it should leave.”
Aoun stressed that ministers will not engage in a dispute during cabinet sessions over the successor of current Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, stressing that “there are several competent replacements.”
He reiterated that he didn't nominate his son-in-law Commando Regiment chief Brig. Gen. Chamel Roukoz to succeed Qahwaji as army chief, but “that doesn't mean that I won't.”
“If my son-in-law is qualified then why wouldn't he be appointed?” Aoun wondered.
He told al-Hayat daily that the raising of the retirement age for military personnel “isn't the problem... but we should preserve the hierarchy.”
Roukoz's tenure ends in October while the term of army commander Qahwaji expires at the end of September.
Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and the Free Patriotic Movement were recently at loggerheads after Aoun decided to withdraw confidence from him over the extension of the term of the head of the Higher Defense Council, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair.
The military positions in Lebanon are suffering as a result of the months-long presidential vacuum in light of the parliament's failure to elect a successor for Michel Suleiman. The vacuum also threatens the position of Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous who is set to retire in June.