President Michel Aoun heads the national talks at Baabda Palace
Security needed to help secure stability, says Lebanese president Michel Aoun
25 Jun 2020
Lebanon - The National Meeting, held today at Baabda Palace, unanimously agreed to halt all kinds of campaigns which would stir discord, threaten civil peace, and destabilize internal security. The meeting was held at the invitation of President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, and attended by Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri, Prime Minister, Hassan Diab in addition to leaders and heads of Parliamentary blocs.
Attendees considered that the freedom of expression, which is protected in the text of the constitution, should be exercised within the limits of the law, which criminalizes insults, and infringement of dignities and other personal freedoms.
Although attendees considered that a democratic life is not just without the presence of an opposition, especially parliamentary ones, they stressed that the violent opposition that cuts the nation's ties and harms public and private property does not fall within the category of democratic and peaceful opposition.
Then, conferees affirmed the necessity, "To unify attitudes towards ways to address the economic, financial and monetary crisis and its social repercussions by adopting a final path for structural reforms in public finances and the adoption of the International Monetary Fund program if agreed to its reform conditions".
For his side, President Aoun had started the meeting with a speech in which he said that he was hoping to include all parties and political forces, considering that what happened in recent weeks should be a warning to everyone to be alert to all security threats. "There are those who take advantage of people's anger, and their legitimate demands, in order to generate violence and chaos, to achieve suspicious foreign agendas with the political gains of parties inside" the President asserted.
And while President Aoun explained that the political difference is at the basis of a democratic life, he stressed that its roof remains civil peace "And no matter how tense the speeches are, we should not allow any spark to ignite it".
In addition, the President stressed that "Unity around critical options is a necessity, we have to unite hands in facing sedition and fortifying civil peace so that we do not enter into a tunnel from which there is no exit. This is the true red line, and there will be no tolerance with those who try to pass it".
For his part, Prime Minister Diab considered that the country is not okay but the treatment is a national responsibility, not only the responsibility of a government that came out of the rubble of the crisis, or the responsibility of previous governments that were hiding the crisis, but everyone today is concerned with contributing to the rescue workshop, stressing that "We do not have the luxury of time for bidding, settling scores and achieving political gains".
PM Diab considered that "Nothing will remain in the country to compete for if this rift, estrangement and free battles persist", and called for this meeting to be "The beginning of a broad national action, from which a committee that monitors communications under the dome of the Parliament, with all political forces, and civil society, to submit recommendations to this meeting again under the auspices of the President of the Republic".
The "National Gathering" was attended by Speaker Berri and Prime Minister Diab, former President Michel Suleiman, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Elie Al-Ferzly, Head of the Mountain Guarantee Bloc, MP Talal Arslan, Head of the National Social Bloc MP, Assaad Hardan, Head of the Strong Lebanese Bloc, MP Gebran Bassil, Representative of the Consultative Meeting Bloc, MP Faysal Karami, Head of the Armenian Representatives Bloc, MP Hagop Pakradounian, Head of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, MP Muhammad Raad, Head of the Democratic Gathering Bloc, MP Taymour Jumblatt.
President Aoun's Speech:
Welcome and thank you for attending this meeting which only bears one title: "the protection of stability and civil peace", especially in light of recent developments.
I was therefore hoping that all the country's parties and political forces would join us because civil peace is a 'red line' and all the wills are supposed to converge in order to reinforce it, since it is the responsibility of everyone and does not solely befall one individual, no matter how highly he is ranked, neither one party, nor one actor.
What happened on the streets in the past weeks, especially in Tripoli, Beirut and Ain El Remmaneh, must sound the alarm for us all to sense the security dangers that have tried to ignite sedition by pulling the trigger of social demands. And it seemed obvious that some were using the people's anger and legitimate demands to sow violence and chaos, in view of fulfilling suspicious external agendas while scoring political gains for internal parties.
We have alarmingly had a brush with the atmosphere of civil war and movements were suspiciously launched, loaded with confessional and sectarian feud and mobilizing emotions; moreover violence, violation of public and private properties, contempt against religions and abusive language have been portrayed as a legitimate right for the perpetrators.
In view of such an unprecedented chaos, charging spirits and reverting to the obsolete language of war which was dearly paid for by Lebanon in the past, and based on my constitutional responsibilities, I had to call for this inclusive national meeting to put a definitive end to this dangerous security derailment.
Political divergence is healthy and at the core of democratic life, but its ceiling remains civil peace which cannot be crossed. No matter how heated the rhetoric may be, we must not allow any spark to slip out of it, because putting out the fire is not as easy as starting it, especially if it gets out of control; and this is the responsibility of all of us, attendees and absentees alike.
Today, our country is going through the worst financial and economic crisis, and our people are experiencing daily suffering, fearing for their lifelong savings, concerned for their future, desperate about losing their jobs and their decent living.
I say it loud and clear, no rescue is possible if some continue to easily tamper with security, manipulate the street, mobilize confessional and sectarian sensitivities, put spokes in the wheels and chime with some external parties which are striving to turn Lebanon into a field to settle accounts and score advantages by starving, terrorizing and strangling people economically.
If we think that collapse will spare anyone, we are mistaken;
Or that hunger and unemployment have a confessional or political color, we are delusional;
Or that violence on the streets is like strings that we manipulate anytime we want and stop by our own will, we are overlooking the lessons of the recent past, as well as those of the region and the neighborhood.
Before the vital challenges that Lebanon is facing and amid the regional turbulence, the tall waves that are hitting our shores, and the perils that may stem from the legislation called the "Caesar Act", unity around decisive choices is imperative.
Our aim from this meeting today is only to promote this unity and prevent chaos.
Yes, the difference of opinion is a human right and an intellectual incentive; yet, we have to stick together, hand in hand, in countering sedition and consolidating civil peace in order not to enter a tunnel with no way out.
This is the real red line and we will have zero-tolerance for those who try to cross it!
Prime Minister Diab's Speech:
"Firstly, I would like to thank the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, for this call, which carries a high degree of national responsibility in pushing towards a meeting of the Lebanese in a dialogue which obstructs the thunderbolts of sedition and seeks exits for the current deep crises in the country.
The Lebanese are anxiously looking to the future, because the present is confused and because the economic, social and living conditions leave behind black shadows, painful tragedies and a social groove, which some fail to notice.
Yes, the country is not okay.
How can the homeland be fine while citizens are hungry?!
This is a description of chronic reality, however treatment is a national responsibility, not only the responsibility of a Government that came to the ruins of the crisis, and managed to reduce the impact on the reserve and contain all repercussions, when it decided boldly to stop paying debts, which neared 4.6 Billion US Dollars this year. Imagine the result if we had paid this amount from Lebanese reserves!
Moreover, the remedy is not only the responsibility of previous Governments that were hiding this crisis, then this Government came to boldly reveal the numbers of accumulated financial losses transparently, in the context of a financial rescue plan, which is the first in Lebanese history.
Today, everyone is interested in contributing to the rescue workshop. We don't have the luxury of time to settle scores and gain political points. Nothing will remain in Lebanon to compete for if this rupture continues.
We are going through a crucial stage in Lebanese history, which requires us to join efforts, provide the country's interest and prioritize the logic of the state, in order to be able to reduce the extent of the damages which may be disastrous.
Let me speak frankly, the Lebanese do not expect fruitful results from this meeting.
In the Lebanese view, this meeting will be like previous ones, and after this meeting will be like before, and perhaps worse.
Today, the Lebanese only care about one thing: How much will the Dollar rate be? Is it not the truth?
The Lebanese will not scrutinize the terms we have included in our speeches. No longer care what we say. They only care what we will do. And I admit and reassure: our words have no value if we do not translate them into actions that relieve the Lebanese from burdens.
The Lebanese want the judiciary to act against corruption and the corrupt. The Lebanese want the Central Bank to control the Dollar exchange rate vs the Lebanese Pound, and save the value of their salaries and savings. This is what the Lebanese want, and this is what we are supposed to be all responsible for achieving. Proceeding from that, I call, with all love, that this meeting be the beginning of a broad national action, from which a committee that follows communications under the dome of the Parliament emerges, with all political forces and civil society bodies to submit recommendations to this meeting again, and under the auspices of His Excellency the President of the Republic.
May God help us for the good of Lebanon, and the Lebanese to cross this difficult ordeal which pressures our homeland.
Long Live Lebanon and the Lebanese".
After the meeting, former Minister, Salim Jreisatti, read the meeting's statement:
"At the invitation of His Excellency, President Michel Aoun, a national meeting was held today, Thursday 25th of June 2020, at Baabda Palace. The meeting was attended by: Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri, Prime Minister, Dr. Hassan Diab, former President Michel Sleiman, Parliament Speaker Deputy, Elie Ferzly, head of Mountain Guarantee Bloc, MP Talal Arslan, head of the National Social Bloc, MP Assaad Hardan, head of Strong Lebanon Bloc, MP Gebran Bassil, Representative of the Consultative Gathering Bloc, MP Faisal Karameh, head of the Armenian Representatives Bloc, MP Hagop Pakradounian, head of Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, MP Mohammed Raad, and head of the Democratic Gathering Bloc, MP Timor Joumblat.
The meeting tackled the general situation in the country, especially the security situation after recent developments which took place two weeks ago, in Beirut and Tripoli.
It was agreed on the following:
First: Security stability is the basis for, but rather a condition for, political, economic, social, financial and monetary stability. As for confronting sedition, and sectarian charging, in preparation for chaos, it is a collective responsibility in which all components of the society and its political components are shared.
Accordingly, the meeting called for stopping all kinds of provocative campaigns that would provoke sedition, threaten civil peace and destabilize internal security which was achieved due to the awareness of those responsible for the country's capabilities and the efforts of the military and security forces, and their preemptive and field response to terrorism, its cells and the abolitionist idea.
Second: Freedom of expression is safeguarded in the forefront of the constitution and its body, provided that this freedom is exercised within the limits of the law that criminalizes insults and infringement of dignities, and other personal freedoms. The limit of freedom is the truth and there is no limit to it except freedom of the other and respecting the law.
Third: Democratic life in our parliamentary constitutional system does not exist without the presence of the opposition, especially the Parliamentary opposition, and the right to demonstrate and express protected by the constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; This is because the people are the source of authorities, but the violent opposition which cuts down the homeland and harms its children and public and private properties does not fall into the category of democratic and peaceful opposition. In times of existential crises, the Government and the opposition meet and work together to save the country from any threat it encountered.
Fourth: Lebanon is undergoing a complex and worsening crisis, political, economic, financial, social and health, however this crisis will not overcome Lebanese will, and the people's will not be defeated by it. We derive from the history of Lebanon a system of moral and patriotic values that we rely on and find in it a safe haven against fragmentation, dispersal and fighting. It is a crisis that is more dangerous than war, and in times of major crises we must all take political action to the national level, bypassing authoritarian considerations. The people are not hostile to themselves nor hostile to their homeland, and we all must bear the responsibilities resulting from this equation.
Fifth: Building on this meeting to start from consensual research, without prohibitions, but by upholding the common national interest in order to deal with the spirit of responsibility and understanding the joints of the big differences that fuel our divisions, so we seek together to unify positions or shortening distances between positions, at least on the entity and existential issues that relate to our country's unity and the permanence of our state, which includes:
- Ways to address the economic, financial and monetary crisis and its social repercussions by adopting a final path for structural reforms (in our public finances) and the adoption of the International Monetary Fund program if we agreed on its reform conditions because they do not conflict with our interest and sovereignty and by seriously fighting corruption on the rights of depositors and our free economic system, and making this system productive as stated in our constitution.
- The development that must be adopted in our political system in order to be more viable and productive in the context of implementing the constitution, and developing it in terms of bridging the gaps and implementing what has not been achieved from the National Accord Document.
- The main issues related to the supreme Lebanese interest in terms of affirming the position of Lebanon and its role in its surroundings and the world as a bridge between the East and West and a convergence area of religions and beliefs, and the implications of all foreign policies affecting this identity (Arab) and its location (unifying) such as Caesar's Law and the issue of displacement, settlement, and execution of the Palestinian cause, with its destructive effects on Lebanon, and its interaction with its surroundings.
President Michel Suleiman expressed his reservations on the statement".
The national meeting was preceded by a meeting between President Aoun Speaker Berri and PM Diab, during which the latest developments were deliberated.
Former President Suleiman:
After the meeting, President Suleiman spoke to the journalists and said:
"I thanked President Aoun for the invitation to this meeting, and I wished at the beginning of the President of the Republic to adjourn the session after delivering his speech for further consultations without issuing a statement except briefly, in order to collect the components that did not attend today. I do not speak about the charter, as there is disagreement about who is my charter and who is not my charter, but there are components who represent a large segment of the Lebanese people because democracy, the parliament and the cabinet are one issue, and dialogue is another. Dialogue includes all segments of society.
The core of my request is to return to the Baabda Declaration. On this basis, and although the statement contains some good points, all of which were mentioned in this Declaration, I objected to it because no dialogue begins except from where the previous dialogue ended. Baabda's billboard was hung here in the October 22 Hall, Independence Hall, but it was burned. But if it burned, does that mean it ended? The document is in the United Nations and the Arab League. I ask His Excellency, the President and those present with love, to come back to adopt this document, otherwise we have no salvation. In economics, I am neither a specialist nor a member of it. In civil peace, we saw that people accepted each other after the motorcycle issue, and all popular officials denounced and mobilized to prevent attacks. Therefore, we do not need a meeting here, but rather a decision by the President, the government, and the security apparatuses to take necessary measures, and I do not think that anyone wants chaos in Lebanon. We are not under any illusion that the civil peace has been shaken. It shook because the currency collapsed, but the collapse of the currency is not fixed by settling accounts, but by public policy. The policy that we follow does not take us to an economy and it changes everything".
After the meeting, Representative Hardan made the following statement:
"We consider that all discussions took place on how to strengthen national unity and civil peace, with full description that civil peace is threatened in the country. And security here is a broad title related to individual security, food security, and national security and how to address these situations. The Lebanese are very concerned about their present and future. We consider this to be the most important element of division and collision. What is required is to get out of this matter and for that reason the discussion today touched on some points that came under the title of implementing the constitution. The issues that were raised aside were not on the agenda. The interlocutors have the right to put forth what they want and what they want, but the main title was about how to promote civil peace and national unity, while seriously thinking that Lebanon had put its head for a long time in the sand.
We discussed all issues in terms of what the state must bear to confront Caesar's law repercussions, and this new blockade on Lebanon, which our country has to face in order to secure Lebanese interests. Our country must open a network of relations starting from Syria to the entire Arab world. Lebanon is an Arab country and Syria is an Arab country, and these channels are supposed to be opened in favor of Lebanon. Today we are called to move in this direction, because all these matters promote national unity and civil peace.
The Lebanese need stability and do not need inflammatory slogans for strife, collision and division. What is required is Lebanon's exit from this crisis, and this is through the implementation of constitutional texts".
Deputy of Parliament Speaker:
Then Deputy of the Parliament Speaker, Elie Al-Ferzly stated that the news about a dispute concerning the defense strategy and Baabda Agreement occurring with him, then Muhammad Raad, and turned into a heated debate with former President Suleiman, is totally incorrect and unfounded.
"It is not time to transform such dialogue platforms into platforms to gain immediate and interim popularities. The dialogue was on how to fortify civil peace in Lebanon, and this is a matter of the utmost importance and necessity. It is the goal and therefore everything must be devoted to serving this goal, in addition to the means that should be pursued through dialogue. The focus was on the necessity of continuing the dialogue". ----Presidency Press Office