Lebanon's President Michel Aoun met on Thursday with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, who had called for a reconciliation meeting between the president and Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri.
The meeting came in parallel with Hariri’s return to Beirut, which he had left for “family reasons” following unfruitful talks with Aoun.
Attention is still focused on the role of the Maronite Patriarch in pushing forward the government’s consultations, which have been stalled due to disagreements over the distribution of portfolios and exchange of accusations between the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Al-Mustaqbal party.
On Thursday, Aoun held a closed session with Rai, following which he addressed journalists, saying that the purpose of the meeting was to wish each other happy holidays because circumstances prevented them from being at the Patriarchate at Christmas. He added that talks touched on “the general conditions that are still undeclared, because not everything we do is reported in the media, and unfortunately, everyone in the media writes as they please.”
In response to a question about Rai’s call for meeting between Aoun and Hariri to agree on a government without quotas, the president replied: “This is a possibility.”
While FPM sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the patriarch had proposed that the two sides meet in Bkirki to agree on the government formation, sources in the presidential palace noted that Aoun was yet to make a decision about his participation in such meeting.
On the other hand, former Minister Sejaan Azzi, who is working with Rai on mediation efforts, stressed that the patriarch did not present any new initiative other than the reconciliation meeting between Aoun and Hariri.
He added that Rai did not determine any specific location for the meeting, but his goal was to push the two sides to end their differences and resolve the government deadlock.