BEIRUT – Progressive Socialist Party chief and the head of the Democratic Gathering Parliamentary bloc MP Walid Jumblatt on Saturday called on Saudi Arabia to enter into dialogue with Iran stressing that such talks will be a great help for Lebanon in implementing its dissociation policy.
Lebanon was thrust back onto the frontline of a regional power tussle this month between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The two regional powers back competing factions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, the last of which has become a central arena of the proxy battle.
“A settlement at minimum with the Islamic Republic (of Iran) gives us in Lebanon more strength and determination to cooperate to enforce the policy of disassociation,” Jumblatt said in a Tweet on Saturday.
“Disassociation” is widely understood in Lebanon to mean its policy of staying out of regional conflicts, which PM Saad Hariri has been stressing since his resignation, a reference to Hezbollah whose regional military role is a source of deep concern in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon
Saudi policy of confronting Iran more aggressively around the region has been spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also attempting to push through difficult and extensive internal reforms.
Saudi Arabia has played an important role in Lebanon in the past, helping to broker the end of its civil war in 1990 and contributing to reconstruction afterwards.
But the extent of its role in the Nov. 4 resignation announcement by Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has been widely debated in Lebanon and led some Lebanese to fear that Riyadh sought to destabilize their country.
Addressing Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Jumblatt said: “The challenges are tremendous and the modernization of the Kingdom is an Islamic and Arabic necessity but this mission cannot be successful while the Yemen war continues.”
The Saudi-led coalition has been targeting the Iran-aligned Houthi movement since 2015, after the Houthis seized parts of Yemen including the capital Sanaa, forcing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee.
He added“Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam suggests a semi-cultural revolution. This is very important step in Islamic moderation that will lead to openness to all religions, and the visit of the Patriarch Beshara al-Rai is the perfect example. I have been told that an old church will open pending the construction of a new church,” Jumblatt said.
On Wednesday, the coalition said it would allow aid in through the Red Sea ports of Hodeidah and Salif, as well as U.N. flights to Sanaa, more than two weeks after blockading the country.
“Enough of the destruction and siege in Yemen and enough of the human and material drain on the Kingdom’s people and resources,” Jumblatt said. “Let the Yemeni people choose who it wants and you, Your Excellency the Prince, be the judge, the reformer, and the big brother as your ancestors were.”
Jumblatt also said it is very difficult to stop the war unless issues are overcome and discussions are held with Iranians.
On Friday, Jumblatt criticized The Iranians for interfering in Lebanon and the Saudis for the way Hariri had been treated while he was in the kingdom .
Jumblatt denounced Iran’s interference in Lebanon’s affairs , a day after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps head Mohammad Ali Jafari said that Hezbollah weapons were non-negotiable and disarming Hezbollah was out of the question .
“We reject the Iranian dictation that came from Jafari’s mouth,” the PSP chief said. “The Lebanese have enough experience and the know-how to solve their issues through dialogue. We don’t take dictations from across borders that don’t benefit us.”
Several Lebanese officials say Saudi Arabia put Hariri under effective house arrest in Riyadh and forced him to declare his resignation on Nov. 4. Saudi Arabia has denied holding Hariri against his will or forcing him to resign.
“Out of keenness for the Kingdom and the Yemeni people, there is a need for reconciliation or compromise. There is no shame in having talks with the Islamic Republic to arrange this settlement away from personal attacks from here and there. Peace and reconciliation must prevail between the two peoples,” he stressed.
“It is very easy to fire the first bullet in war,” Jumblatt concluded .