Riachi to Asharq Al-Awsat: Normalization with Syria is Part of Attempts to Delay Cabinet

Saturday, 18 August, 2018 - 08:15
Beirut - Caroline Akoum

Caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi has warned against further details in the formation of the Lebanese government, slamming attempts to normalize relations with Syria as part of efforts exerted by some parties to prolong the cabinet stalemate.

The government formation deadlock has entered its third month with no solutions in sight. But Riachi, who is a member of the Lebanese Forces party, was optimistic on Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s ability in forming a government that reflects the results of the parliamentary elections held in May.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the caretaker minister downplayed warnings that President Michel Aoun could task another person to form the government if Hariri fails to come up with a line-up.

He also slammed criticism that Hariri was allowing some politicians to intervene in the formation process. “If this was true, then Hariri would have formed a cabinet, which meets the demands of others, from the first day of his nomination,” Riachi said.

Calls for the normalization of ties with Syria are part of what he termed “the phenomenon of obstruction” of Hariri’s mission.

“There is an implicit agreement among all Lebanese parties to distance themselves from the problems of Arab countries,” said Riachi.

The caretaker minister rejected claims that the cabinet stalemate was also the result of foreign obstacles.

“So far, the problem lies in the division of shares…and the insistence of some parties to rip the biggest benefit by getting the biggest share,” he said.

“This harms Lebanon and limits its role,” Riachi lamented.

Asked about what has become known as the “Christian obstacle” in the cabinet formation, the minister said that LF leader Samir Geagea will have a say on the matter next week.

The LF and the Free Patriotic Movement, which is led by Aoun’s son-in-law caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, have been in disagreement over their shares in the cabinet.

The obstacles also center on the representation of the Druze community.

On remarks made by Aoun that the early opening of the presidential battle is behind the delay in the formation of the government, Riachi had “co comment.”

The president said earlier this month that Bassil is a front-runner in the race due in 2022.

On a Russian plan for the return of Syrian refugees to their home country, Riachi said any measure to repatriate the Syrians should be backed by the UN Security Council.

“We have no doubt that Russia’s role is important. But it needs US and Arab consensus,” he added.

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