Nasrallah: Riyadh trying to "derail" Syria peace talks
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Monday accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to derail the expected Geneva II Syria peace conference, saying the kingdom had become enraged over what he claimed to be regime-strengthening developments in the conflict-ridden Arab state.
Nasrallah also blamed Riyadh for Lebanon’s failure to form a new government and urged the March 14 coalition to accept a Cabinet lineup which would give rival groups veto power.
“The world has come to an understanding that a military solution [in Syria] is no longer valid and the only acceptable solution is a political one via an unconditional dialogue,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech commemorating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Al-Rassoul al-Azam Hospital.
“But there is one country, ... the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and it is still very angry over the prospects of a political solution in Syria,” he said.
Nasrallah said the kingdom had exhausted all available means to force the collapse of President Bashar Assad’s regime, such as sending tens of thousands of fighters and spending an estimated $30 billion.
“The opposite side did all it can to target the regime and bring it down but failed to reach any results,” he said.
The prospects of a military solution subsided, Nasrallah said, in light of divisions within the Syrian opposition and the rebels, the Syrian army’s recapture of several areas and the collapse of a possible U.S.-led attack on the war-torn country.
“The stubbornness and insistence on [a military solution] will only lead to further fighting, casualties and destruction as well as repercussions on neighboring countries,” Nasrallah said.
He also advised Saudi Arabia not to pass up the opportunity for peace talks in Geneva II, noting that time was not on the opposition’s side.
“Given the current developments, it is best that you go forward with a political solution in Syria,” he said.
The Hezbollah leader also lashed out at Saudi Arabia for allegedly putting pressure on caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati not to convene a Cabinet session to address oil-related issues and the security situation in the country, particularly the clashes in the northern city of Tripoli.
“Most of the ministers agree that the Cabinet should convene ... but the prime minister is hesitant because there has been mounting political pressure on him since the day he resigned,” Nasrallah noted, saying he wished those for whom Mikati resigned would recipricate the caretaker prime minister's loyalty.
Mikati resigned on March 22 over disputes within his Cabinet, including a disagreement regarding the extension of Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi’s term as the head of the Internal Security Forces. Hezbollah had opposed the extension.
“There is pressure [on Mikati] from Saudi [Arabia] making it forbidden for the caretaker Cabinet to function, as well as pressure from the Future Movement and the March 14 coalition on the [caretaker] prime minister,” Nasrallah said.
He urged the president and Mikati to call for a Cabinet session and for “political forces outside the government to decrease such pressure.”
The Hezbollah chief reiterated his party’s criticism of March 14, saying the western-backed coalition is linking the formation of a new Cabinet with the outcome of the Syrian crisis.
Addressing his rivals, Nasrallah said: “Stop postponing and stop derailing the formation because the circumstances [in Syria] are only changing in favor of the other team.”