Future-Hezbollah talks begin to resolve Presidency stand-off, but both sides remain pragmatic as Aoun’s candidacy remains

by Martin Jay

23 December 2014 | 14:53

  • by Martin Jay
  • Last update: 23 December 2014 | 14:53

Lebanon's current political malaise, which is responsible for the country's crippling troubles, could be resolved today in talks between the two major blocks in a bid to find a new president to steer the country away from the abyss.
With all Lebanese concerns leaning on the emerging Islamic state in Syria and Iraq, a less conspicuous but potentially just as explosive one is the Sunni-Shiite tension set to rise inside Lebanon's borders.
Following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, Sunni-Shiite tensions have been mounting slowly. It wasn't until the outbreak of the Syrian civil war that divisions between the two sects had escalated so quickly, deeply threatening the internal security in Lebanon.

Today marks the start of the long awaited dialogue between Future Movement and Hezbollah, two of the most prominent political forces in the Lebanese arena.

Officials from both parties along with parliament speaker Nabih Berri, the host, will sit face to face to discuss unsettled national issues in an optimistic attempt to reduce the sectarian tension on one hand, whilst on the other to pave the way for a solution to the presidential vacancy conundrum.

At the forefront of the dialogue, Hezbollah is still committed to the presidential candidacy of Gen. Michel Aoun, chief of Free Patriotic Movement who is severely opposed by Future Movement and other 14-March parties who support Lebanese Forces leader Samir Gaegae's candidacy.
"The presidential election issue is the easiest in Hezbollah's perspective," Khalil said in a special interview with Hezbollah-aligned journal Al-Akhbar.
"Hezbollah's candidate is Gen. Michel Aoun and we are devoted to him," he stressed. "Anyone who has a different opinion should go and speak with the general."

Ammar Houri, MP and legislative counselor of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed the importance of the dialogue between both parties to reach common grounds regarding the national concerns, yet called for a realistic outcome.

"We do not place high expectations, and we know that there are basic divisions between us and Hezbollah," Houri said in an interview with Voice of Lebanon radio station today (Tuesday).

"We are engaging in dialogue because we have differences and had failed in the past to agree on many core issues," Houri added.

The first dialogue will start today at 6:00 p.m. at Nabih Berri's residence in the Beirut neighborhood of Ain al-Tineh and will discuss the following headlines: Reduce the Sunni-Shiite sectarian tension, implement an enhanced strategy to confront the terrorism threat, discuss the presidential vacancy issue, improve the effectiveness of the council of ministers and discuss the electoral law issue.

On one side, Future Movement would be represented by Nader Hariri, chief of staff of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Mr. Nouhad Mashnouk, Minister of Interior Affairs, and Lawmaker Samir Jisr.
On the other side, Hezbollah secretary general's political aide, Mr. Hussein Khalil, along with MP Hasan Fadlallah and Industry Minister Hussein Hajj would sit for the dialogue on behalf of Hezbollah.
Lebanon has been without a president since May 2014, 7 months now, and civil war in Syria and the pro- and anti-Assad split in the Lebanese pitch is stoking the Sunni-Shiite Tension. Hezbollah answers "Let's sit face to face first and see where talk would bring us".

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