A meeting held between the son-in-law of Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in New York last week sparked dismay in the team of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, shaking the ruling alliance that would also deal on Monday with a general strike organized by civil servants to protest a freeze in their salary hike.
On Thursday, Moallem and his Lebanese counterpart Jebran Bassil met in New York on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly.
Aoun spoke last week about “communication channels” with the Syrian regime concerning the issue of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
In objection to the Bassil-Moallem meeting, Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq announced that he was not accompanying the president on his official trip to Paris on Monday, describing the meeting between the two foreign ministers as tantamount to a political attack on the premiership, and a violation of the political settlement.
"We will not accept it [Bassil-Moallem meeting] under any circumstances and we will confront it by all means,” Mashnouk said during a meeting with Beiruti families on Sunday.
Despite his harsh attack on Bassil, Mashnouq did not mention President Aoun.
However, ministerial sources warned that the ruling coalition could not survive long if Lebanon remains attached to such approach vis-à-vis the Syrian regime.
“The president is not alone entitled to discuss the issue of cooperation with the Syrian regime, but should present the matter to the cabinet that in return makes the appropriate decision in this regard,” sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
On Sunday, Aoun said that Lebanon would discuss with Syria the file of the Syrian refugees, who currently constitute 50 percent of his country’s population.
Separately, and following the confusion produced by last week’s decision of the Constitutional Council to overturn a tax law, the cabinet currently faces a new deadlock in providing resources to fund a salary scale for public employees, who are now angry from the possibility of not receiving their financial rights.
The Syndicate Coordination Committee called for a general strike Monday in all public institutions, schools and municipalities to put pressure on the government in case political forces decide to halt the salary hike during a cabinet session scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Secretary General of the Teachers Union in Lebanon Walid Jaradi predicted that around 125,000 public employees would participate in Monday’s strike.