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Lebanese Officials Welcome Rai’s Calls to ‘Break Siege against Legitimacy’

Lebanese Officials Welcome Rai’s Calls to ‘Break Siege against Legitimacy’

Tuesday, 7 July, 2020 - 07:00
Lebanese demonstrators wave national flags on a highway linking Beirut to north Lebanon, in Zouk Mikael on October 19, 2019. (AFP)
Beirut - Caroline Akoum

Lebanese parties, particularly Christian opposition forces, welcomed on Monday recent statements by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Al-Rai, who accused politicians of thinking only of their own vested interests and urged the president to “break the siege against the legitimacy” and declare Lebanon’s neutrality.

Presidential sources refused to comment on Rai’s comments. However, officials close to President Michel Aoun told Asahrq Al-Awsat said contacts between them are ongoing.

“The patriarch is completely aware of the efforts exerted by the president to reach solutions to Lebanon’s current problems despite the difficulties he is facing, in addition to the pressure being exerted to prevent such solutions,” the sources said.

Meanwhile, Christian parties, mainly the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb party and former MP Butros Harb, expressed support to Rai’s positions.

“A Lebanese Forces delegation would visit Bkirki today (Tuesday) to show support to the patriarch’s positions,” LF MP Georges Okeiss told Asharq Al-Awsat, amid reports that Christian opposition parties would soon hold a meeting.

“During times of crisis, we have grown accustomed to Bkirki using its influence to correct wrong choices and confront the dangers facing the country. This is what Rai is doing today through his strongly-worded statements given the threats Lebanon is facing and attempts by some sides to turn it towards the East,” he added.

Kataeb MP Elias Hankash said Rai’s statements were clear in saying that “the isolation Lebanon is enduring is alien to its people.”

“At a time when we are imploring the International Monetary Fund for aid, some Lebanese sides are sparking confrontations with some of its main member states,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat. “This is where neutrality is important. We have always called for it.”

Others have described it as distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts, but they have never committed to this principle, he remarked.

For his part, Harb said the Lebanese crisis requires tougher positions in order “to save the country before it is too late.”

“It is normal for Rai to make such statements, which were similarly echoed by other Christian and Muslim religious figures, calling on officials to assume their responsibilities and ease the suffering of the people,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

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