Meetings in Bkerke, “Stew with Hass”… and a ground dialogue to waste “Shankash”

The head of the “Lebanese Forces” party, Samir Geagea, expressed his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Bkerke meeting, especially since he does not see any benefit from it. However, the participation of the “Lebanese Forces” comes for various reasons, at the forefront of which is “for the sake of the church.”

He saw in the program “With Walid Abboud” on Lebanon TV that there is a Christian faction that has participated in power partially, largely or completely, for more than 15 years, that is, the “Free Patriotic Movement,” and “nothing has come out of it,” and that the solution lies in gathering forces. The other Christianity, which is originally close and agrees on a unified opinion, while the position of the “current” is elsewhere.”

He believed that “talking about a Christian problem is inaccurate, and we do not want to change the reality or ignore it, considering that all its sects suffer from a major national “state” problem. But the resistance group loves Christians to the point of “pitting” all its proposals on them, and for example, this group attributes the reason for disrupting the presidential elections to its connection to the Maronite-Maronite understanding,” recalling that Christians had previously disagreed over the name Jihad Azour and fought a battle to convey it.

In response to a question, he stressed that “the Lebanese in general and Christians in particular have never had the luxury of time given the size of the country and the dangers surrounding it, but in recent months we are witnessing a programmed campaign aimed at placing responsibility for the country’s problems on the people of this sect.”

He added: “In the last forty years, a portion of Christians were lost, which contributed to getting us to where we are, but the situation began to improve after the last elections in 2022. Foreign, Arab, and local studies have stated that the conflict existing today in Lebanon is between Christians from On the one hand, and the Shiite duo on the other hand, in addition to several problems that everyone shares.”

Regarding the most dangerous thing between “the presidential vacuum and the political vacuum on the Maronite level,” Geagea pointed out that “there is no political vacuum on the Maronite level, as Christians, for the first time in many years, are the ‘other party’ in the country.”

Regarding the meeting with Bkerke, he expressed “his lack of conviction in it, but the ‘Forces’ participate in it for various reasons, most of which are for the sake of the church.”

He said: “There is a Christian group that has participated in power, partially or completely, for more than 15 years, that is, the Free Patriotic Movement, and we are well aware of its opinions, approaches, and practices, and nothing has come out of it. From here, I do not see the benefit of these meetings.” I believe that we have another solution, which lies in the gathering of other Christian forces, which are already close, such as the Phalange Party, the Liberal Patriots, and the Independents, and which agree on a unified opinion while the “current” tweets in another flock.”

He continued: “We participate in the meeting in Bkerke because no one has the right to judge performance based on history, so we say, “Maybe somewhere…”, but we have learned, based on past experiences, not to give the “movement” a “scrap of paper” before it commits to declared positions. So we in Bkerke put the dots on the letters and gave him room to think.”

Regarding the fear that the head of the “movement” Gebran Bassil would play on the contradictions “in order to raise his price with Hezbollah,” he replied: “I am almost certain of that, and if the “party” accepts an agreement with Bassil on a president of the republic other than the head of the “Marada Movement” Suleiman. Franjieh will sit with him. Therefore, it is likely that the meetings with Bkerke, unfortunately, will be “cooked with beans,” and the most important thing remains that we have come to know him well and are fully aware of how to deal with him.”

But if Bassil was using Bkerke to float himself as a political reference, then the “chief of the forces” supported this theory and responded to this sudden request from Basil, citing slogans they put forward when needed under the title “the rights of Christians.”

He continued: There is no historical line for the “Free Patriotic Movement” and I am not abusing Bassil. In the early 1990s, the “Free Patriotic Movement” was able to destroy the only free zone in Lebanon and kill about 1,000 people under the slogan of “Unifying Venice.” When all of Lebanon included “armed organizations,” there was one armed organization that sought to preserve the army and the state, which was the “Lebanese Forces.” However, in 2005, when there was an existing state after the Taif Agreement, the movement allowed the presence of weapons with Hezbollah outside State authority, under the pretext of the state’s lack of preparedness. Therefore, the “current” has no axioms, but rather interests that it adheres to that push it to cooperate with those who secure them.”

He added: “In the year 2016, this “current” seized power and the Christian portfolios, and the result was that the greatest catastrophe occurred in a period that was the worst, as nothing was accomplished, except for the election law, after the “Forces” were the main driver in it, in addition to the desire of the movement.”

Regarding whether the opposition made a mistake by not clinging to one candidate as the “resistance” did, Geagea stated, “In the beginning we nominated Representative Michel Moawad, who received 47 votes, then we moved on to nominate former Minister Jihad Azour, who received 59 votes. From here, our choice is to move towards ending the presidential vacancy. If Moawad had received more votes, we would have followed him until the end.”

He was asked: “Whoever wants to move forward in the battle for the presidency should not accept sitting at the dialogue table.” He replied: “These are presidential elections, and there is a team that is “reluctant” to drag us into accepting its candidate. It must be remembered that there is a dialogue on a daily basis, in which the opposition group only presents what are our demands to move forward with Franjieh. He said: The dialogue table proposed by President Nabih Berri is an entertainment that we will not accept to follow, as its goal is to “waste Al-Shinkash” and place the responsibility for the obstruction on others on the “resistance team,” in addition to betting on the possibility of his success by “withdrawing a number of representatives from his side.”

While he was surprised that the constitutional mechanism was not adopted to accomplish the presidential entitlement, while it is adhered to during the elections for the Presidency of the Parliament and the nomination of the Prime Minister, Geagea reiterated the necessity of inviting Berri to a session in successive sessions until a new president is elected for the country, as following the constitutional mechanism remains the basis.

He asked, “What is more beneficial to establish a dialogue about: presidential elections or declaring war in the south,” especially since some representatives tried in one of the sessions to raise the situation in the south, but Speaker Berri rejected him.

He said: The southern war has cost about 350 Lebanese dead so far, a billion dollars in direct losses, and another billion in indirect losses, so who bears responsibility? The state is compensated when it is the one who made the decision to enter the war, and not “because who was not taking the decision on its behalf.”

Regarding the fact that Christians are considered outside the decision-making circle, Geagea regretted that “a large portion of them contributed from 2006 to yesterday in this direction.” Where was the “current” at that time? It is “a hit on the hoof and a hit on the nail,” not based on a principled standpoint of the war in the south, as much as he expects gains from “Hezbollah.”

Regarding his fear of Bassil’s agreement with Hezbollah, repositioning it, and then electing a president of the republic, after you secure a quorum in the session, he replied: “Why didn’t they act before?” And if they do that, we will not stand idly by and will meet them with a different approach. In the worst case scenario, we will play the role of the fierce opposition, and the number of those joining it will increase, after the situation in the country has reached a point where there is no room for “quarter solutions” from here, and dilution and lies from there.”

Regarding whether he regretted the decision he made in 2016, he simply said: “Every stage has its own circumstances, and that experience was characterized by depth and importance.”

Geagea, who pointed out that the intention of the “Ambassadors of the Five” is serious, but that they have no ability to cause a breach, considered that they “come from ancient countries, and are fully aware of the mechanism of democratic elections, and that their success requires holding a session in successive sessions, not at dialogue tables,” stressing that they “did not They adopted the demands and vision of the other team, but they tried to play the role of mediator, and from here I preferred to set limits to the game.”

Regarding the failure to fill the presidency before the next parliamentary elections, perhaps it will create a new balance of power, he said: “Not necessarily, as the non-opposition forces in the current council are more than those affiliated with the opposition group, but the problem lies in the 25 representatives who do not make the right decision. A centrist is someone who does not belong to a particular party while he has to choose when needed.”

He added: “In the session of June 13, 2023, the choice was between Franjieh and Azour, the owner of the “profile,” the third candidate par excellence and the economic expert, but the 25 representatives we are talking about preferred to “stand on the sidelines,” instead of exercising their constitutional role and choosing whomever they deem appropriate, even if He was not our candidate, given that the approach they are adopting extends the presidential vacuum.”

Geagea, who refused to go into the names of other candidates, pointed out that “we have no objection to discussing the name of a third candidate, if he is the solution, provided that he has the characteristics of Azour, especially since we and Azour are not committed to people.”

Regarding what is being said behind the scenes about returning to putting forward two names from the circle of the powerful four, that is, Gebran Bassil, Suleiman Franjieh, Sami Gemayel and Samir Geagea, given the precision of the stage, he replied: “I have no information in this regard, and if that is proposed, even if it rarely happens.” Then it is necessary to adopt one of the “current’s” equations: “The strongest in its sect is the one who represents it.”

When asked why he did not insist on this, as General Aoun did previously, he summarized his answer by saying: “Our goal is to reach a solution, not to obstruct matters.”

In the context of the war in the south, he was asked about his opinion if Israel was heading towards an open war or if it was just pressure on Hezbollah. He replied: “I don’t know, and this is a story of insight and I don’t want insight here.” Here I ask, who made the decision to enter the war? The answer is simple: “Hezbollah.” But, does he have the right to throw the Lebanese people into war just for the sake of “power,” especially since at least two-thirds of the Lebanese people do not want war? The “party” acts as if it were a loose territory, which did not contribute to “breeding” retinues of armed groups affiliated with it. What remains of the state in Lebanon?

Geagea believed that “a society cannot live without a state, but this state is no longer appropriate, so we and the rest of the parties support research into a new composition of the state, since the authority as it is today is not “functional” and needs to be re-examined.”

As for who left the state to become this large, he answered: “The desire to dissolve the militias was the main reason for dissolving the “Forces” party, so we, the Socialist Party, and the other small armed organizations acquiesced to this decision, while Hezbollah was allowed to remain under the pretext that it is “resistance.” For this reason, the “Forces” party was dissolved and the main dispute began, in addition to the fact that the existence of the statelet is also due to the positions of some politicians in Lebanon. From here, a composition must be reached that these politicians are compatible with.”

Geagea, who attributed the reason for negotiating the southern issue with Hezbollah to “that he is the one who undermines” and not Patriarch Al-Rahi or me, for example,” explained that “the negotiations are taking place with the party on the issue of a ceasefire only and not on the major strategies and the future of Lebanon,” stressing. However, the foreign negotiators and delegates intended to clarify this from the beginning.”

Regarding his fear of Hezbollah’s concession in exchange for internal political gains, he asked: “How will they give it political gains?” Is there someone else’s pocket? We should not be afraid, considering that the local forces are the ones who determine the course of things, and if the “party” was truly capable of imposing a fait accompli, it would have brought Franjieh as president of the country.”

He was asked: Is the issue of “disarming Hezbollah” still realistic at this stage? He said: “In the negotiations, they only talk about what is related to the existing circumstance, and this is the best time to demand its disarmament and handover to the army.” This period has proven that there is no use for this illegal weapon after Israel seized some Lebanese regions in this war, which confirms that the party’s basic claim that it is based on its possession of weapons is wrong.”

In response to a question, Geagea described the situation between Saudi Arabia and Iran as “calm” like all Arab countries, while each party approaches the issues according to its point of view.

He continued: “Since the accession of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s approach to foreign files has changed, such that it no longer desires to interfere in the details of the internal policies of other countries. For example, in the Lebanese presidential file, you prefer to wait for the election of the president and monitor his performance to decide how to deal with him and Lebanon in terms of supporting him and the Lebanese state.

Regarding whether this decision weakened the forces, Geagea stressed that “we are an existing local force that is proud of the friendship of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and believes that this is the correct path for bilateral relations.”

He concluded, “This stage is the closest to salvation and resurrection for Lebanon, but this path is not short, and requires thinking about serious and radical solutions in addition to effort, fatigue, and full readiness to continue the process.”

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