DIAB FROM DIMAN: I WILL NOT RESIGN, NEUTRALITY REQUIRES NATIONAL DIALOGUE

Prime Minister Hassan Diab has paid a visit to Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi in Diman, accompanied by Minister of Environment and Administrative Development Demianos Kattar and PM Advisor, Khodor Taleb.

 

Premier Diab and the accompanying delegation held a meeting with his Beatitude the Patriarch, in the presence of Patriarchal Vicar General, Bishop Hanna Alwan, Patriarchal Vicar for Al-Jebbeh and Zgharta, Joseph Naffah, Patriarchal Vicar, Bishop Peter Karam, Egypt Maronite Diocese, Bishop Georges Chihane, and Patriarchal Father Tony El-Agha, in addition to Minister of Telecommunications, Talal Hawat who joined the meeting.

 

PM Diab’s statement:

 

Speaking after the meeting, Prime Minister Diab said: “The meeting with his Beatitude Patriarch Rahi always has a distinctive character; we have discussed national affairs, especially the social, economic and living conditions experienced by Lebanese citizens, and which have led to accumulated financial and monetary difficulties. His Beatitude always gives us his advice and guidance on a national dimension, and we always listen to his advice to benefit from his experience and wisdom.”

 

Talks with reporters:

 

Q- Your meeting today with the Patriarch is the first direct meeting which comes after Patriarch Rahi’s call for Lebanon’s neutrality, a call that has sparked several reactions. Your Excellency, you have entered into office as the head of an independent, i.e. neutral government; however, you are accused, along with your cabinet, of becoming a one-colored government, which has led to Lebanon being besieged. Do you support Rahi’s proposal? Do you still consider your government as independent? Where do we stand today?

 

A- I think that talking about “Hezbollah’s government” has become like a “broken CD”; however, the issue of neutrality is purely political. Everyone knows that his Beatitude brings all Lebanese together; this particular issue requires a deep political dialogue by all political parties in Lebanon. As you know, Lebanon has constituted an interface and a bridge between East and West for decades. I think that this issue should be subject to dialogue between all political parties in Lebanon in order, for it to be an inclusive not a contentious issue for all the Lebanese.

 

Q- So, do you agree with the Patriarch?

 

A- The issue of neutrality needs clarity in order to understand its meaning and dimensions because interpretations differ; thus, all neutrality-related dimensions must be understood before taking any position. We are bound by the Lebanese Constitution and Taef Agreement; Israel is an enemy; it is still usurping a part of the Lebanese territories and is violating the Lebanese sovereignty by air, land and sea on a daily basis; if we only look at the number of air violations, Israel has committed more than 11,200 violations in 2019 only; what is the international position on this issue? We need, as the Patriarch reiterated, to bring the Lebanese together; therefore, a dialogue is necessary in this field in order to be on the “same page” and adhere to this issue.

 

Q- Who is responsible for the blockade the government faces? We always hear accusations from your side, but the perpetrator is anonymous. Why don’t you give names?

 

A- I do not mention the name of the perpetrator, but I remember him; I will choose the right time and place when I want to name the perpetrator. Unfortunately, there is a strong local and foreign wave that is harmful to Lebanon, and not to the government or to its downfall. I understand political stances against the government; this is a democratic right for any political party; however, I cannot understand positions against Lebanon at the social and economic levels. Does aid, electricity, water, financial and food assistance benefit the government? For this reason, in terms of assistance, we have focused on the national dimension, not on the factional, sectarian, denominational, or regional dimension; in fact, we insisted on disbursing 1,200 billion LBP, through a bill approved by the parliament, in the form of cash assistance provided to more than 200,000 Lebanese families over a period of seven months, which is equivalent to one and a half million people, in addition to helping thousands of industrialists, farmers, and SMEs, as well as allocating 450 billion pounds to help hospitals and 500 billion pounds through a bill that has recently been submitted by the cabinet to help schools in Lebanon overcome the ordeal they face.

 

Q- Your Excellency, the adage says that “we do not want a fish, but we need a fishing hook”. Institutions’ closure; electricity cuts; waste crisis; 3 dollar prices; the dollar on the threshold of 10,000 pounds; we could not do anything. You came with a rescue mission and people have the right to ask you what have you done?

 

A- We started to breath as a government as of May 1, when we send a request for assistance to the International Monetary Fund, since before that there was the coronavirus epidemic, the financial reform plan finalized within six weeks, and the decisive decision not to pay the Eurobonds. As of May 1, we started implementing many reforms. Out of 4 reform packages, mainly the ministerial statement, Cedre, the financial reform plan, and the fourth new reform package, amounting to than 350 reforms, 75 reforms have been implemented. But when we say that reforms have been made, the citizen must know that they are: either a decision at the ministerial or cabinet level, a draft decree at the cabinet level, or a draft law approved by the government. In other words, a bill that it transferred to the parliament becomes in parliament’s custody by virtue of the separation of powers. Changes to the draft law might be introduced by the parliament, thus changing the draft law. Therefore, let the government be held accountable for the work that takes place inside of it, as it is not the one that brought the country to its current situation, but successive governments did, and we are working to clean up the mess. Attitudes against the government in politics are a legitimate and democratic right. As for the positions that harm the country as a whole in terms of electricity, water, social assistance, economy, monetary situation, they are not legitimate; what is the point of political rivalries regarding negotiations with the IMF? It caused us a 2 months delay. We reached the point of turning the page and accepting the losses that we discussed for two months; we are currently discussing the distribution of losses, i.e. the program that we can discuss with the IMF for the coming years. Who said that the program presented by the government cannot be modified? We have reiterated our understanding of the banking sector’s stance and the BDL’s position; these issues must be ultimately approved by the parliament; possible draft laws emanating from the program will be transferred to the parliament for approval. All Lebanese for different political affiliations must join hands, at least at the social, economic, and financial level, so as to save all Lebanese, not just one category.

 

Q- Where do we stand in terms of negotiations with the IMF? What approach and which figures do you adopt regarding the economic plan if the parliament says that your plan was invalid?

 

A- The IMF’s reaction to the negotiations was positive in terms of turning the page on the debate regarding losses; we have started talking about the program, which takes into account all points of view. A technical committee comprised of the banks, the BDL, the Ministry of Finance, and the government is currently discussing this issue. We are holding intensive meetings next week; when a program-related scenario will be conceived, we will disclose it; all Lebanese must come together in order to find the appropriate program for Lebanon, not for this particular government, or else who will pay the price? The government? No, Lebanon as a whole.

 

Q- Your Excellency, will the prevailing situation lead to the resignation of the government?

 

A- I will not resign.

 

Q- What do you rely on?

 

A- I keep my word, I will not resign because if I do, it will not be easy to find an alternative, and the caretaker government will last a year or two, and this is a crime against the country and the Lebanese people. As for the parliament, if it chooses to withdraw confidence from government and change it, then this is its political right.

 

Q- Is there any possible minister(s) resignation from the government?

 

A- Everything is possible and welcomed.

 

Then, Patriarch Rahi gave a luncheon in honor of PM Diab and the accompanying delegation. {PM Diab’s Press Office}

 

Source: Natioanl News Agency

 

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