Hariri mediates an Aoun-Berri meeting following Israeli threats

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (C) meets with Prime minister Saad al-Hariri (R) and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon December 18, 2016. Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (C) meets with Prime minister Saad al-Hariri (R) and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon December 18, 2016. Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters

Prime Minister Saad Hariri held a meeting   with President Michel Aoun  in Baabda and during the meeting  he arranged for a call between the president and Speaker Nabih Berri  ,  MTV reported .

“Hariri called Berri and then handed over  the phone to Aoun to discuss with the Speaker the Israeli threats over the oil file and the need to convene the Higher Defense Council to discuss the matter,” MTV said.

This development comes amid an unprecedented row between Aoun and Berri  and skyrocketing tensions between their supporters.

In a statement, the Presidency said Aoun’s talks with Berri tackled “the issue of the repeated Israeli violations against Lebanon.”

“The challenges we are facing require us to turn the page on what happened lately and to work hand in hand to achieve Lebanon’s interest,” the statement quoted Aoun as telling Berri.

The two leaders also agreed to meet on Tuesday to “mull the steps that should be taken to confront the repeated Israeli threats and discuss the general situations in the country.”

Berri’s press office meanwhile echoed the Presidency’s statement and added that the two leaders agreed to put an end to the war of words between AMAL and the FPM.

According to LBCI television, Berri “appreciated the president’s initiative.”

Hariri meanwhile announced after meeting Aoun that “God willing, things will become positive between President Aoun and Speaker Berri.”

“The dignity of Speaker Berri is part of my dignity, the dignity of President Aoun and the dignity of the Lebanese people. I’m speaking in my name and in the name of the president,” Hariri said.

“We are facing a major attack on Lebanon’s oil resources, especially in Block 9, and Lebanon will have bold and clear steps in this regard,” Hariri added.

The Aoun-Berri dispute  erupted after the president and the premier signed a decree granting one-year’s seniority to a number of officers. Berri and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, a member of Berri’s Amal movement  insisted that the decree should have carried the finance minister’s signature.

The crisis between the two parties deteriorated dramatically after the emergence of a leaked video showing Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil – Aoun’s son-in-law calling Berri a “thug” during a closed meeting.

The video also sparked  an Amal- FPM  war of words  and three days of unrest and protests that involved gunfire and tesnion  between supporters of Aoun and Berri outside the FPM’s headquarters in Sin el-Fil and in the town of Hadath – an FPM stronghold.

Israeli  threats

 Aoun reiterated  during meetings with his guests his warning of “the dangerous stance voiced by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman about Block 9 in the Exclusive Economic Zone in south Lebanon.”

He urged “vigilance over what the Israeli enemy is plotting against Lebanon, especially that parties inside and outside the country are working on creating an atmosphere that chimes with the Israeli threats.”

“Lebanon has moved to confront these Israeli claims through diplomatic means, while stressing its right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity through all means possible,” the president noted.

Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said Thursday that Lebanon will sign agreements with the explorers — France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Novatek — next week and would be ready to begin drilling by 2019.