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Long path remains to intra-Druze reconciliation: Arslan

The Daily Star

BEIRUT: A meeting held at Baabda Palace between Druze Lebanese leaders and other politicians was just the first step on a long path to intra-Druze reconciliation, Druze MP Talal Arslan said Sunday.

“Our loss is an unusual one, and what happened with our dear minister was not simple, and it was not an accident,” Arslan, who heads the Lebanese Democratic Party, said during an event held to commemorate the victims of the June 30 clashes in Aley.

The Baabda meeting convened President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri with Arslan and his Druze rival, Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Joumblatt.

The meeting enabled the Cabinet ministers to meet last Saturday, breaking a deadlock that resulted from the Aley clashes and lasted longer than a month.

On June 30, two people were killed and at least two more injured when shooting broke out as Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Saleh Gharib was traveling through the Aley town of Qabr Shmoun. Gharib, a member of the LDP, had been helping Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil with a planned tour of the area when supporters of the rival Druze party, the PSP, blocked the road.

Shots went off, though who fired first is unclear.

In the aftermath of the incident, Arslan, Gharib and Bassil claimed that the shooting was an assassination attempt. They said the matter should be referred to the Judicial Council, a specialized court that deals with highly sensitive cases. Other parties have refused, saying the case should follow the normal course through the courts.

The disagreement resulted in the Cabinet stalemate. An interim solution has since been reached, whereby the case is currently before the Military Tribunal pending a final decision by Cabinet on whether to refer it to a different judicial body.

Arslan’s comments Sunday hit back at comments made a day earlier by Education Minister Akram Chehayeb, a PSP member, who told Aoun that the Aley shooting was an “accident that is now behind us.”

During his speech, Arslan added, “I hope that Premier Hariri does not send us messages from across the seas, and that [those] who [await] messages from across the seas are the ones who are weak and not us.”

This past week, Hariri told reporters in Washington that anyone who targets Joumblatt in any way would be directly targeting “me personally, and Speaker Berri.”

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