The Lebanese Cabinet will finally convene on Saturday. It follows a reconciliation meeting on Thursday during which two feuding Druze leaders in Mount Lebanon agreed to cooperate with each other to end a political crisis that paralyzed the nation’s government for more than a month.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said Lebanon’s dollar-dominated bonds and 2030 Eurobond rallied to their highest levels in a week after Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party, and Talal Arslan, head of the Democratic Party, agreed to meet to settle their differences. Their meeting was held at Baabda Palace at the invitation of President Michel Aoun, who chaired the talks. Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also attended.
In a televised address after the meeting, Hariri confirmed that the two men had reconciled and the Cabinet will convene on Saturday. He added: “From today, there will be a new page and we will all cooperate together in the interests of the country and in the interests of Lebanese citizens.”
The stand-off between Jumblatt and Arslan sparked a political crisis that lasted almost six weeks. It began on June 30 when two aides to government minister Saleh Al-Gharib, an ally of Arslan, were shot and killed in Kabreshmoun. Both sides blamed each other for the gunfire, and were at odds over who should investigate the incident. Hariri said that it was agreed during the reconciliation meeting that it will be investigated by a military court.
Berri described the outcome of the meeting as “an achievement.” Jumblatt nodded to show that he was content, while Arslan smiled. The reconciliation meeting was preceded by a gathering of top officials to discuss the economy. Lebanon has public debt valued at about 150 percent of gross domestic product, one of the highest levels in the world.
Before the meetings, Khalil had warned that “there will be no financial or economic stability without political stability” and predicted that “credit will be affected by the meetings.”
After the finance meeting, Riad Salamé, governor of Bank of Lebanon, said that the discussions were very good.
Hariri said: “The financial meeting stressed the necessity of committing to maintaining political stability, and the attendees reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound.
“The attendees agreed on steps to be implemented in the next phase to contribute to strengthening the economy and commencing with the McKinsey plan.” This was a reference to a 1,274-page plan to revamp the Lebanese economy, which was compiled by US consulting firm, McKinsey and Co.
Hariri continued: “The basic steps include approving the 2020 budget, implementing the 2019 budget, developing a detailed plan to launch investment projects amounting to $3.3 billion, implementing the Cedar projects, fully implementing the power plan, adopting reform laws — particularly those related to public tenders and tax and customs evasion, coordinating with the committee for modernization of laws, activating the ministerial work committees, completing judicial reform steps, strengthening the work of oversight bodies, curbing waste and corruption, and reviewing useless institutions.”
Reacting to the meetings, former MP Fares Souaid said: “Lebanon has succeeded in overcoming the rifts, and Walid Jumblatt succeeded in lifting the siege around him by mobilizing the majority of his community and the Sunni community, as well as winning Christian sympathies.
“The raised tone of Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement and the President of the Republic has diminished due to external pressure.
“I hope we will not return to clashes of a different kind and that all hearts will find peace. I also hope we reach a conclusion so that no one would dare harass anyone. What happened means that in Lebanon, no matter how glorious a sect or an armed party is, they cannot impose their views because the border of each sect ends where the borders of the other sects begin, and everyone realizes that we are all in the same boat.”
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