BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Founder MP Michel Aoun turned a historic page in intra-Christian relations when the former March 14 presidential nominee officially endorsed on Monday Aoun's candidacy for the presidency.
"I announce after long consideration, discussions and deliberations between members of the executive body of the Lebanese Forces, our endorsement of the candidacy of [former] General Michel Aoun for the presidency," Geagea said in joint news conference with his March 8 rival.
Speaking from the LF's headquarters in Maarab where he had met with Aoun shortly before the news conference, Geagea read a 10-point understanding that summarized the key points of the Declaration of Intent struck between the LF and FPM in June.
The commitment to the implementation of the Taif Accord, the need to stop the flow of arms and militants across the Lebanese-Syrian border in both directions, the ratification of a new electoral law and compliance with international resolutions were among the key points agreed upon between the LF and FPM, Geagea said.
As he read the key points of his understanding with Aoun, Geagea paused for a moment to tell joke. With humor, the LF leader asked Aoun to urge his son-in-law Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to act in accordance with the sixth point of their agreement.
Geagea was referring to his understanding with the Former general over "the need to adopt an independent foreign policy that guarantees Lebanon's interests and complies with international law."
For his part, Aoun thanked Geagea for his support and said he would extend his hands to all political parties.
Geagea's official endorsement of Aoun's nomination would provide a significant boost for the former general's presidential bid but it remains unclear how the Future Movement would react to this initiative.
Before his arrival to the LF's headquarters, Aoun met with Maronite Patriarch BecharaRai, who has repeatedly voiced his support for initiatives aimed at breaking the presidential deadlock.
"We came to inform the patriarch of the agreement," Aoun said from the seat of the Maronite church.
Earlier in the day, Rai had met with former Prime Minister and head of the Future Movement parliamentary bloc Fouad Siniora. Following his meeting with the patriarch, Siniora stressed the need to elect a president who enjoys the support of all Lebanese factions.
"We have to work hard to elect a person who can unite all Lebanese people from all political affiliations and promote coexistence among them," said Siniora.
Geagea's endorsement of Aoun is the first time the country's two leading Christian parties have come together on such a pivotal issue after decades of animosity.
Geagea, the former March 14 presidential candidate, was caught by surprise when his ally Future Movement leader and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri reportedly nominated Marada Movement Chief Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency.
Geagea has staunchly opposed the deal, which stirred up controversy both within the March 8 and 14 camps.
Aoun, on the other hand, had shown no signs of giving up his presidential ambitions in favor of Franjieh, a longtime ally of Hezbollah and a member of Aoun's reform and Change parliamentary bloc.
For weeks Hezbollah remained silent over Hariri's proposed settlement, as Franjieh sought to win the support of its allies.
Hezbollah finally broke its media silence Dec. 29, 2015, and reaffirmed its support for Aoun's presidential bid.
In the first official statement since Hariri's initiative emerged, Hezbollah's Politburo Chief Sayyed Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed announced from the seat of the Maronite patriarchate that his party is committed to supporting the presidential bid of its ally Aoun.
Aoun and Geagea kicked off talks a year ago. The talks culminated in a Declaration of Intent that paved the way for a surprise visit by Geagea to Aoun's residence in Rabieh in June.
The Declaration of Intent has since brought Aoun and Geagea closer together, putting an end to the bitter rivalry between the Christian leaders who fought a devastating war in 1990.
Lebanon's top post has been vacant since May 2014 as Lebanese politicians failed to agree on a consensus president.
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