A Political Breakthrough In Doha

Mabrouk! Lebanese politicians reach agreement to end eighteen months-long political crisis

Posted by Qifa Nabki

After over a year and a half (556 days, to be precise) since five opposition ministers resigned from the Lebanese cabinet, precipitating the worst political crisis since the Civil War, a solution was finally reached between Lebanese politicians in Doha, early this morning. 

The agreement brings to a close a turbulent period which saw downtown Beirut shut down by demonstrators, dozens of civilians killed in street clashes, the Nahr al-Bared conflict, a string of political assassinations, and the return of ugly displays of sectarianism, which threatened to drag the country back into civil war. 

The solution came in the form of an agreement on the 1960 electoral law with approved amendments relating to the shape of Beirut's electoral districts, coupled with a cabinet alignment which accords a minority veto to the opposition parties. General Michel Suleiman is expected to be elected President of the Republic on Thursday or Friday, with dignitaries and foreign heads of state arriving on Sunday to celebrate the political breakthrough.

Here are some news items on the deal:

Political Agreement Reached in Lebanon (NY Times)

By NADA BAKRI and ALAN COWELL

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Hezbollah-led Shiite opposition and the Lebanese government backed by the West and Saudi Arabia, reached an agreement on Wednesday to resolve an 18-month political crisis that has crippled the country and recently triggered the worst fighting since the 1975-1990 civil war.After five days of fraught negotiations among Lebanon’s rival political groups in Doha, the Qatari authorities said the agreement called for moves within 24 hours for Parliament in Beirut to begin the process of electing Gen. Michel Suleiman, the commander of Lebanon’s army, as president.

The deal was also expected to lead to the formation of a cabinet in which Hezbollah, supported by Iran and Syria, along with its allies will enjoy the veto power it had sought in the negotiations .

Under the terms of the agreement, the government will also debate anew electoral law designed to provide better representation in the country’s sectarian system of power-sharing.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, the Qatari Prime Minister, told a formal ceremony in Doha that Lebanon’s feuding parties “agreed that the speaker of Parliament will call within 24 hours for the election of Gen. Michel Suleiman as president of the republic.”

Nabih Berri, the Parliament speaker, said the new president would be elected soon, possibly on Sunday. Lebanon has been without a president since November. Mr Berri also said a protest camp in Beirut’s central commercial district would be dismantled.Opposition supporters began to take down their tents Wednesday morning.

The agreement negotiated in Doha foresaw the creation of a government composed of 16 cabinet seats for the ruling majority, 11 for the opposition and three to be nominated by the new president.

The deal enjoined all parties to “commit themselves not to use weapons or violence in order to achieve political gains under any circumstances.”

Despite the agreement, many of the differences that ignited Lebanon’s newest crisis remained unresolved. They include how to deal with Hezbollah’s weapons stocks, and Lebanon’s relations with Syria which ended its 29-year military presence here in 2005 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The issue of cooperation with a United Nations tribunal to investigate Hariri’s murder and 10 others that followed was not resolved. Pro-government officials accuse Syria of involvement in these assassinations.

Media reports said that the agreement was reached when Qatar stepped up pressure Tuesday night following signs that the talks were deadlocked over the new electoral law, which will determine how the factions share power in Beirut and thusinfluence next year’s parliamentary elections.

The Qatari Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani was reported to have intervened personally Tuesday night to clinch the deal, after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia where he attended a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting. The Saudis are important supporters of the current Sunni government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

The Doha talks came after an Arab League delegation headed by Qatar mediated a deal between Lebanese factions that ended a week of violence earlier this month in which more than 60 people were killed during street clashes between gunmen loyal to Hezbollah and Sunni backers of the government.

Hezbollah and its allies, angered by government decisions that threatened a private communication network and an attempt to dismiss the head of security at Beirut’s airport,a figure close to the group, sent their fighters into the streets on May 7, blocking roads and engaging in clashes with Sunni fighters in Beirut. Violence also raged in eastern and northern Lebanon and the central mountains. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, called the government’s actions a declaration of war.

The agreement in Doha drew quick approval from Saudi Arabia and from France, whose President, Nicolas Sarkozy, called it “a great success for Lebanon.” Iran and Syria, Hezbollah’s supporters, also approved the deal, Reuters reported. 

إنجاز الدوحة: صفحة جديدة للبنان

انتخاب سليمان فوراً وحكومة بثلث معطّل وتقسيم يريح الحريري في بيروت ويرضي عون والأرمن

الدوحة ـ إبراهيم الأمين ونقولا ناصيف

بعيد منتصف ليل أمس، تمّ التوصل في الدوحة الى اتفاق لبناني ـــــ لبناني هو الأوّل من نوعه لإعادة تنظيم الحياة السياسيّة في لبنان منذ اغتيال الرئيس الشهيد رفيق الحريري في الرابع عشر من شباط عام 2005.
وقال مرجع قيادي في المعارضة إن الاتفاق صيغ في ورقة وسوف يذاع صباح اليوم بعد إجراء الترتيبات لإعلان رسمي في الدوحة، على أمل أن تبدأ الترتيبات في بيروت لإجراء انتخابات رئاسية خلال ثلاثة أيام على أبعد تقدير، يليها بدء مشاورات لتأليف حكومة وحدة وطنية قال موالون إن النائب سعد الدين الحريري قد يكون رئيسها أو من ينوب عنه، لكن لن يبقى الرئيس فؤاد السنيورة في موقعه.
وقد زار أمير قطر حمد بن خليفة آل ثاني العماد ميشال عون في جناحه، وأنجز معه اللمسات الأخيرة على الاتفاق. ثمّ عُقد اجتماع قرابة الواحدة والنصف بعد منتصف الليل بين مندوبي الموالاة والمعارضة مع رئيس الوزراء القطري حمد بن جاسم، لصياغة نص الاتفاق بصورة نهائية.
وكانت أجواء تشاؤميّة قد سادت بعد البيان الصحافي الذي أذاعه وزير الدولة للشؤون الخارجية في قطر أحمد المحمود، وصلت الى حدود بدء بعض الوفود بترتيب أغراضها تمهيداً للعودة الى بيروت. بعد ذلك بقليل، غادر الأمين العام للجامعة العربية عمرو موسى الى البحرين، وانتقل أمير قطر الى الدمام للمشاركة في الاجتماع التشاوري لقادة دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي، فيما استأنف رئيس حكومته حمد بن جاسم سلسلة اجتماعات منفصلة مع قادة الموالاة والمعارضة. وبدا عاتباً بقوة لأن هناك من يريد تفويت فرصة على لبنان بالحصول على اتفاق يحلّ أزمته السياسية ويمنع تمدّد الفتنة القائمة.
وحسب المعلومات، فإن الاتفاق يقضي بالآتي:
أوّلاً: انتخاب رئيس جديد للجمهورية هو المرشح التوافقي العماد ميشال سليمان.
ثانياً: تأليف حكومة وحدة وطنية تنال فيها المعارضة الثلث الضامن (11 مقعداً) والموالاة النصف زائداً واحداً (16 مقعداً) وتترك ثلاثة مقاعد لرئيس الجمهورية.
ثالثاً: تحيل هذه الحكومة في أول اجتماع الى مجلس النواب مشروع قانون للانتخابات النيابية يقوم على اعتماد ما تم في عام 1960، على أن يكون تقسيم العاصمة بيروت بطريقة جديدة.
رابعاً: يدعو رئيس الجمهورية إلى جلسات حوار وطني بشأن بقية المسائل العالقة ولا سيما ملف العلاقة بين الدولة والتنظيمات كافة. ويفترض أن يشير الاتفاق الى التزام جميع الأطراف بالعمل على عدم تجدّد العنف وعدم الاحتكام الى السلاح في أي خلاف داخلي، ويترك أمر سلاح المقاومة الى الحوار المفترض أن يقوده رئيس الجمهورية في وقت لاحق. كما يتضمّن دعوة لوقف الحملات الإعلاميّة والتحريضيّة بين الموالاة والمعارضة.

حزب الله والترياق

وفي المشاورات التي جرت لاحقاً، سلم حزب الله، بالتنسيق مع بقية قوى المعارضة، الى رئيس الوزراء القطري اقتراحه للحل في بيروت، ثم جرى نقاش تفصيلي انتهى الى الاتفاق على صيغة تقضي بتقسيمها الى ثلاث دوائر، الأولى تضم أحياء الأشرفية والرميل والصيفي وتضم خمسة مقاعد (ماروني، روم أرثوذكس، كاثوليكي، واثنان من الارمن)، والثانية تضم الباشورة والمدور وفيها أربعة مقاعد (سني وشيعي واثنان من الارمن)، والثالثة وهي الاكبر وتضم أحياء المزرعة والمصيطبة ورأس بيروت وعين المريسة وميناء الحصن والمرفأ وفيها عشرة مقاعد (شيعي، درزي، أقليات، روم أرثوذكس وواحد من الاقليات وخمسة مقاعد للسنّة).
وقال اقتراح حزب الله بأن توافقاً يجب أن يسبق الانتخابات، بحيث تكون هناك لائحة ائتلافية في الدائرة الثانية، فيختار كل من فريقي الموالاة والمعارضة مرشّحيهم الى هذه الدائرة. وكانت هذه الفكرة الوحيدة التي جعلت العماد عون يتراجع عن مطالبته بترك ثمانية مقاعد في الدائرة الأولى.
بعد موافقة العماد عون ومندوب حزب الطاشناق النائب أغوب بقرادونيان، توجه الجميع الى اجتماع خاص للجنة صياغة قانون الانتخابات. وترأس الجلسة الأولى رئيس الوزراء القطري بحضور مساعده وزير الدولة للشؤون الخارجية أحمد المحمود وهشام يوسف وطلال الأمين عن الجامعة العربية والنائبين أكرم شهيّب وجورج عدوان والنائب السابق غطاس خوري والمسؤول في تيار «المستقبل» صالح فروخ عن فريق الموالاة. وحضر عن المعارضة النواب: علي حسن خليل، محمد فنيش، آغوب بقرادونيان والمسؤول السياسي في التيار الوطني الحر جبران باسيل ونائب مدير مركز الدراسات والتوثيق عبد الحليم فضل الله.
وحتى الحادية عشرة والنصف ليلاً، كان اجتماع اللجنة مفتوحاً، تخلّلته فترات تشاور من خارج القاعة وفي خلوات جانبية وتنقل بين أجنحة رؤساء الوفود، قبل أن تُعلن موافقة مبدئية للنائب الحريري على الاقتراح، شرط أن يتم التفاهم مسبقاً على عدم حصول معركة انتخابية طاحنة في بيروت، وهو بذلك ضمن المقاعد التسعة في الدائرة الثالثة واثنين من مقاعد الدائرة الثانية، على أن تحصل معركة انتخابية في الدائرة الأولى.
وبعدما رفض كل الأقطاب الإدلاء بتصريحات في اللحظات الأخيرة، اقترب منتصف الليل والجميع في انتظار آخر الأخبار عن المواقف النهائية لكل من الحريري وعون بشأن تقسيم دوائر بيروت الانتخابية. فجأة وصل أمير قطر الى الفندق آتياً من اجتماعات مجلس التعاون الخليجي في الدمام. وأجّل لبعض الوقت الاجتماع الثاني للجنة صياغة قانون الانتخابات، فيما كان الجميع من الفريقين يتولون إشاعة الأجواء الإيجابية عن قرب الحل.

اعتراضات مسيحيّي 14 آذار

ولم تكد أخبار التفاهم تسري بقوة، حتى باشر أعضاء في الفريق المسيحي لـ14 آذار بالإعراب عن اعتراضهم على أيّ اتفاق لا يقدم صيغة نهائية وواضحة تضمن عدم لجوء حزب الله الى استخدام السلاح في الداخل وتنظم علاقة سلاحه مع الدولة من خلال إخضاعه لآلية تنسيق مع الحكومة اللبنانية.
لكن مصادر دبلوماسية عربية ومصادر قيادية في فريق الموالاة قلّلت من هذه الاعتراضات، وقالت إن اجتماعات عقدت لإقناع المتحفّظين بأنّ الامور سوف تأخذ شكلاً أكثر وضوحاً في جلسات الحوار اللاحقة.

Lebanese Voice Relief at End to Political Crisis

Beirut, 21 May 08, 12:42 (AFP) 

Weary Lebanese expressed relief on Wednesday at the announcement of a deal to end 18 months of crisis that drove the country to the brink of civil war but concern it might be only a temporary reprieve."Hopefully this is not a Band-Aid solution and is a long-lasting one," said Aleco Assaf, 64, a resident of Beirut. "People need to live in peace."

Throughout the country people were glued to radio or television sets listening to the Qatari prime minister announce the deal between government and opposition leaders after six days of talks in Doha.

"I am very optimistic because finally we're going to be able to live," said Josiane Nakad, who sells swimwear in the Hamra district of west Beirut.

"I haven't had many sales lately because people didn't know whether they would be spending their summer on the beach or under the bombs. "I just hope this is a long-lasting accord and not just a reprieve."

On the streets, in coffee shops and in telephone conversations, people could be heard congratulating each other on the end to the deadlock between the government and the opposition that erupted in sectarian bloodshed earlier this month.

In the southern coastal city of Tyre, drivers honked their horns on hearing the announcement with some shouting "Mabrouk" (congratulations).

"Since the deal was announced sales have been brisk," said Abu Fadi, who sells Lotto tickets in Beirut. "In the last two days no one was buying but today everyone is hoping that the deal will bring them luck."

Beirut resident Zeinab al-Said, 28, said she was especially happy that the agreement had brought an end to the opposition's 18-month-old protest camp outside the government's headquarters that turned part of the city center into a ghost town.

"I am ecstatic," she told AFP. "I am sure things will get better. We're going to be OK."

Some older Lebanese expressed skepticism, however, that the rival leaders had really buried the hatchet.

"I have seen a lot in my 85 years and it usually only calms down a bit to start over again later," said Elie, who would not give his last name. "Maybe I'll be lucky enough to die when it's calm."(AFP) 

Comments (158)


Pages: « 1 2 3 [4] Show All

151. ausamaa said:

We were talking about the role Israeli Public Opinion plays in shaping Israeli policies (and Peace Moves) I guess. Can we get a straight answer to that question first?

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 22nd, 2008, 10:22 pm

 

152. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The straight answer is that Israeli public opinion plays a critical role in Israeli politics especially when governments are based on small coalitions. That is because politicians have to take into account the possibility of snap elections and if they adopt unpopular measures, they may lose big.

One of the reasons Barak won the elections is because he promised to leave Lebanon. He made the promise because it was a popular one. If Netanyahu would have won the election, Israel would not have left Lebanon. I for example thought it was a good idea to leave Lebanon. Now I am not so sure. The cost on average of staying in Lebanon was 10 soldiers a year. Given the cost of the 2006 war for both Israel and Lebanon, leaving was a bad idea.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 22nd, 2008, 10:30 pm

 

153. why-discuss said:

AIG
If Israel had to wait for a democratic polls of Egyptians on the peace deal with Israel, where would it be today? same applies to Jordan. In the case of peace deals, authoritarian regime are more decisive in reaching goals than democracies. Israel is now trapped by its democracy and if Arab countries become democracies before peace deals are concluded, that would be postponed for one or two generations.
Do we want democracies or peace first?

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 23rd, 2008, 1:32 am

 

154. Shai said:

Ausamaa,

You have a valid point about public opinion in Israel, but you’re also wrong about its lack of significance to decision makers. On the one hand, indeed there were leaders that did not await poll results to carry out significant steps such as withdrawals, as well as military operations and war. In theory, returning the Golan could also occur without receiving a 50.1% approval from the Israel people. However, it is rather unlikely in this particular case. Reasons being, that unlike withdrawing from Lebanon or Gaza, negotiations over the Golan will take a very long time (probably 1-2 years), and even if a national referendum will not be required for the withdrawal, there’s no doubt that an Israeli PM will bring this “peace agreement” for approval before the Knesset. While the Knesset isn’t 100% representative of the Israeli public (but close enough), if 61 members of Knesset do not approve of this agreement, it is doubtful the existing PM will carry it out. Instead, he will immediately resign, and call for new elections. Any which way you look at it, for us Israelis who ARE interested in peace with Syria as soon as possible, the battle is very much over public opinion, even more so than over the actual arrangements within the agreement. Plus, the longer the talks last, the greater the chance that a law will be passed to force a national referendum on the issue of the Golan, in which case public opinion will be the ONLY thing that matters, not even the views of the political leadership.

But you are also correct to suggest that Barak and Sharon did not require the approval first of 50.1% of the people, before carrying out their recent withdrawals. They assumed they had this support, but certainly wouldn’t risk even bringing the initiatives for approval in the Knesset, for fear they would be rejected. But, unlike Gaza or Lebanon, or even the West Bank, most Israelis see the Golan now as part of Israel, not as “occupied territories”. Israelis call other Israelis living in the West Bank “settlers”, but not so with ones living on the Golan. Unlike the West Bank and Gaza, you’ll recall that the Golan was formally annexed by Israel. So it’s a lot more difficult than it may seem to the outside. Still, I am very optimistic, because I know that those 20-30% we need to switch over are numb, or pessimistic, or suspicious of Syria’s intentions, but they are not innately anti-Arab or anti-peace. Given enough time to change those polls (which our politicians and their parties initiate), I believe we can succeed. The more CBMs we have along the way, the easier this task will be.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 23rd, 2008, 8:28 am

 

155. Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

Good point. There are definitely “advantages” in this case to authoritarian regimes. AIG will claim that we are therefore making peace with a leader, not with his people, but in this particular case, I believe the Syrians have no reason not to support such a peace agreement. They gain everything – they lose next to nothing. What Israel will be guaranteeing Syria is only the Golan back, not Bashar’s power for the next 5 decades. Democracy will come faster to Syria if its leadership will no longer be able to use “resistance” and “Golan” excuses towards its people.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 23rd, 2008, 8:33 am

 

156. why-discuss said:

Shai

The syrian people have very strong links to the cause of the palestinians and arab nationalism in general. An agreement on the Golan ignoring the palestinians may not easily accepted, but as Syria is an authoritarian regime, Bashar, if he decide about it, will push it through. This push will be totally impossible in ‘democratic’ Lebanon and of course in Israel. For me this peace deal looks like a very lengthy process for Israel as it needs to shift the mind of the majority of Israelis. With all the negative campaign the US is waging on Syria now, that shift looks even more remote. It is true that the US cannot blame no more Syrian’s role in lebanon, after the Doha agreement, but the thorn is Iran.
Do you seriously believe thet Syria will renounce to the good and profitable relation they have with Iran for the sake of the Golan?

On another register, I noticed something interesting about the attitude towards the tourists in Damascus. While of a different culture (and brand of islam)) most Syrians seem to respect more the iranians, quiet, respectful and religious to the arrogant sex and alcool-craved saudis, despite their money.
Syrians and Iranians can share their old and rich cultures, in addition to a political and strategic alliance. If there weren’t the language issue, these countries will be even closer culturally. By the way Damascus university offers now Turkish and Persian classes that are very popular.
Iran-Syria-Turkey could be a very a successful and powerful trio in the region.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 23rd, 2008, 1:49 pm

 

157. Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

I don’t think Syria will change its relationship with Iran much, with the exception perhaps of its defense agreements. Nor, by the way, do I think it should. Remaining an ally of Iran is no less in Syria’s interest as it is in Israel’s. Many find it hard to understand my rationale for this, but if they try hard, I’m sure they’ll succeed… 🙂

As for the “powerful trio” you mentioned (Iran-Syria-Turkey), though I believe many would like to see such an alliance form, I seriously doubt it will turn into anything “powerful”. If Syria is indeed serious about making peace with Israel (I believe it is), and getting closer to the West, it will not need to form a Muslim alliance, unless it still feels threatened. Even if it did, I doubt it would be with Iran, which is not a natural “friend” of Syria, though it has been for the past two decades, mostly out of mutual interest. All three nations, in fact, have certain issues with one another. Although certainly various agreements can and probably will take place between these three, I doubt actual organized alliances will be formed.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 23rd, 2008, 6:02 pm

 

158. why-discuss said:

Shai

I don’t understand when you say that Iran is not a natural friend to Syria. What do you mean by natural friend? I think Iran has been a much more consistent and faithful friend than the US or France or any other western or even arab countries who have a history of betrayals, suspicions and shifting with Syria. Iran has no such history with Syria, they have always had a harmonious relation and there is no reasons that would change.
In the contrary I believe a rapprochement between Turkey, Iran and Syria can only benefit them as they complement each other. Having a strong presence in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea is a huge asset that can transform the area. It may not happen tomorrow but I think it is quietly happening by more economical and cultural exchanges. By experience I have observed that Syrians and Lebanese are more similar to the Iranians than they are to the Saudis or the Yemenis, except for the language.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 24th, 2008, 2:10 am

 

Pages: « 1 2 3 [4] Show All

Post a comment