A video of Lebanese Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, of the Free Patriotic Movement, calling Speaker Nabih Berri a thug has emerged, creating uproar between the parties of each respective leader.
According to the leaked video, the minister said of the longtime speaker: “This is a thug not a speaker of parliament.”
Bassil made his remarks during an electoral gathering in a town of Batroun, his home region.
Hours later, another video emerged in which the FM is seen responding to a question on how to deal with Berri’s policy by saying: “The solution is for us to break him and not for him to break us.”
The videos created uproar in Lebanon in political circles and on social media between Bassil’s FPM and Berri’s AMAL Movement. Accusations and curses were traded on social media between supporters of each official.
The tensions forced AMAL to issue a statement warning of strife in Lebanon. “The statements issued by head of the FPM threaten the country’s unity, stability and security and an open invitation to strife,” it said.
The Higher Islamic Shi’ite Council also intervened and held the presidency responsible for stoking sectarian sentiment in the country. President Michel Aoun is Bassil’s father-in-law.
“Targeting Berri, who has long been keen on national unity, stability and coexistence, would lead the country towards internal strife aimed at achieving personal goals,” it added.
It held the presidency accountable for this “deplorable” conduct, saying that it is obligated to restore normalcy during this critical phase in Lebanon.
The foreign minister soon issued a statement, saying it was unfortunate that the video was leaked.
Calls for calm were issued by various Lebanese officials, but the AMAL ministers and lawmakers chose to direct harsh accusations against Bassil. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, one of Berri's closest aides, described Bassil in a tweet as "lowly" and a "political dwarf."
Prime Minister Saad Hariri said "Lebanon does not need more escalation" and that he would exert all efforts to calm the political rhetoric in the country.