BEIRUT: Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab Tuesday embarked on an initiative aimed at breaking the monthslong Cabinet stalemate by clearing the way for an ice-breaking meeting between the president and the prime minister-designate following rising tensions between the two leaders that have brought the government formation process back to square one.
Diab met Tuesday with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri before he met later separately with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and President Michel Aoun, discussing ways to accelerate the formation of a salvation Cabinet to deal with the country’s multiple crises and deliver reforms demanded by the international community.
“Diab’s calls on various leaders are part of an initiative aimed at speeding up the formation of a new government,” a top aide to Diab told The Daily Star. “Diab’s initiative also aims to pave the way for a meeting between President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with Hariri at his Beirut Downtown residence, Diab said he and the premier-designate were in agreement that priority was for the quick formation of a new government.
“The country is in dire need for political détente among the concerned leaders. There is an agreement with Prime Minister Hariri that priority is for the formation of a government as soon as possible to deal with the repercussions of the successive crises that have negatively affected Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Diab said.
He added that the fallout of a leaked video, the cause of the latest tensions, in which Aoun was shown calling Hariri a liar over the Cabinet formation process, had been overcome.
“Lebanon has overcome the leaked video episode and priority now is for the formation of a government. Let’s build on positive elements,” he said.
Hariri said he was open toward resolving the Cabinet formation crisis, now in its sixth month. “I expressed openness toward the formation of a government. Prime Minister Diab is to be thanked for what he is doing,” Hariri said.
Lebanon has been left without a fully functioning government since Diab’s Cabinet resigned on Aug. 10 in the aftermath of the massive explosion that devastated Beirut Port, although it has been serving in a caretaker capacity.
Long-simmering tensions between the president and the premier-designate, who last month publicly traded accusations of responsibility for obstructing the formation of an 18-member Cabinet of nonpartisan specialists to deliver reforms in line with the French initiative, came to a head on Jan. 11 when Aoun was shown in the leaked video calling Hariri a liar.
Aoun’s accusation has exacerbated the impasse in the Cabinet formation process, already stalled by a disagreement between the president and the premier-designate over the distribution of key ministries. The video episode has deepened a crisis of confidence between the two leaders and ramped up political tensions in the crises-ridden country.