Mikati to represent Lebanon at Syria talks in Geneva


mikati transfers funds to STLCaretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati decided to head Lebanon’s delegation to the Geneva II conference which is aimed at ending the war in Syria, Lebanese media reported on Friday .

Mikati’s decision comes after caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour announced on November 7 that he will be heading the Lebanese delegation at the peace talks in Geneva, if Lebanon receives an invitation, despite the objections of the March 14 coalition.

“I will represent Lebanon at the head of the Lebanese delegation in Geneva II, and it is not up to the March 14 coalition to decide on the issue, we do not follow their orders,” Mansour told As-Safir newspaper last week.

“Eventually, institutions and officials in power decide how things will take place” Mansour added.

Mansour was probably referring to Speaker Nabih Berri who reportedly is adamant that his minister (Mansour), should head the Lebanese delegation.

Mansour has repeatedly questioned state policy, particularly on Syria– and is thus one of the most polarizing figures in the Cabinet.

Many politicians have on several occasions described Mansour, who represents Speaker Nabih Berri in the cabinet as being “a Syrian Foreign Minister”.

Mansour, a member of the Amal Movement is a key ally of the Hezbollah militant group which is fighting alongside the forces of the Syrian regime against the Syrian rebels who are trying to overthrow the 40 year old dictatorship.

Lebanon adopted last year the Baabda declaration as its official policy to dissociate it from the conflict next door . But the war in Syria and Hezbollah’s direct involvement are threatening Lebanon’s polity, economy and society, and “obstructing” the work of Lebanon’s Parliament and the formation of the new cabinet.

The increasingly sectarian Syrian civil war has claimed an estimated 120,000 lives and forced millions to flee their homes to neighboring countries.

Despite the disassociation policy, Lebanon’s president Michel Suleiman stressed last week the need for Lebanon to take part in the Geneva II talks, citing the impact the crisis in Syria has had on Lebanon.

Lebanon officially hosts about 800, 000 Syrian refugees but the actual number according to reliable sources is over 1.5 million refugees.

The date for the conference has yet to be set U.N.-Arab envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said last week and once finalized it would be announced by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

But on Thursday, Syrian government daily Al-Watan, citing diplomatic sources in Paris, said the talks would be held in Geneva on Dec. 12. The daily reported that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had told his French counterpart Laurent Fabius that the UN chief would announce the date on Nov. 25.