Jumblatt, Geagea call for consensus president
Oct. 18, 2014 /Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea agreed during their meeting Friday on the need to elect a consensus president to help Lebanon cope with security threats linked to the war in Syria, officials from both parties said. Jumblatt, accompanied by MP Ghazi Aridi and the party’s presidential candidate MP Henry Helou, visited Geagea at his residence in Maarab, north of Beirut, as part of the PSP chief’s consultations with rival Maronite leaders on how to shield Lebanon from the repercussions of the nearly 4-year-old civil war in Syria.
“Jumblatt and Geagea underscored the importance of holding the presidential election because Lebanon is facing security threats jeopardizing its stability as a result of the fallout of the Syrian conflict,” LF MP Antoine Zahra, who attended the meeting, told The Daily Star. “The two leaders called for consensus on a candidate in order to break the presidential deadlock.” Although the PSP has maintained contacts with the LF, Friday’s was the first meeting between Jumblatt and Geagea since the PSP chief withdrew from the March 14 coalition in August 2009, an LF source told The Daily Star. Jumblatt’s talks with Geagea centered on the political deadlock that has left Lebanon without a president for nearly five months after Parliament failed over a lack of quorum earlier this month for the 13th time to choose a successor to former President Michel Sleiman.
The two leaders also discussed security threats facing the country after ISIS and Nusra Front militants briefly overran the northeastern town of Arsal in early August and battled the Lebanese Army for five days, in the worst spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon.
Aridi, who participated in the meeting that was also attended by Geagea’s wife, MP Strida Geagea, stressed the need for dialogue among rival factions in order to solve the country’s problems, particularly the presidential crisis. “Let’s reach agreement with each other in order to protect the country. Dialogue among the feuding parties is essential to rescue the country,” Aridi told The Daily Star. “We need to reach understanding on all matters, including the presidential election.” He said Jumblatt’s visit to Geagea was complementary to consultations he had held with other Maronite leaders, as well as with Speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. PSP sources said Jumblatt’s meetings with rival leaders were aimed at defusing sectarian tensions, preserving stability in Lebanon and breaking the presidential impasse.Speaking to reporters after the three-hour meeting, which included a lunch hosted by Geagea, Jumblatt said: “It was a frank and positive dialogue with the head of the Lebanese Forces, during which our views overlapped on certain points and differed on others. But in the end we have no choice except dialogue.”Asked if his visit to Maarab would facilitate the election of a president, Jumblatt said: “Henry Helou is still our candidate.”Geagea said the talks also focused on security developments and the challenges posed by the repercussions of the Syrian conflict. “We had a comprehensive discussion of the big national concerns which are at stake, and at the core of the talks was our views for re-arranging our internal affairs, which should start with the election of a new president,” Geagea said. He said no progress has been made in attempts to elect a president and blamed the “other side,” a reference to Aoun’s and Hezbollah’s bloc, for the deadlock because of their persistent boycott of election sessions to thwart a quorum.
In a bid to break the stalemate, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has called on the rival factions to reach consensus on a new president.