NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun met Deputy Parliament Speaker, Elias Bou Saab, today at the Presidential Palace.
Deputy Speaker Bou Saab asserted that the information issued in the media related to the demarcation of the southern maritime borders contradicts the official position that Lebanon is informed on the matter.
Deputy Speaker Bou Saab also stressed that the American mediator, Amos Hochstein, is keen to continue his efforts based on the results of the last meeting he held with the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the Parliament and the Prime Minister at the Presidential Palace, on the first of this August.
“The time for negotiations is not open to infinity. The closer we get to the month of September, the more critical time becomes in this file. To preserve stability, things must end before September” Deputy Speaker Bou Saab said.
On the other hand, Deputy Speaker Bou Saab revealed that he understood from the President that he is close to completing the study of the banking secrecy law submitted to him by the Parliament, and that he will sign it soon.
Regarding the investigation file regarding the explosion of the port of Beirut, Deputy Speaker Bou Saab pointed out that “We are waiting between today and tomorrow for the issuance of a decree to form the General Authority of the Court of Cassation by the Supreme Judicial Council, after which the investigation will take its course again”.
“But what we cannot understand, and we hope will not happen, is that the new decree will not be issued. Then we will have question marks about the identity of the obstructionist, and what are the reasons” the Deputy Parliament Speaker added.
After the meeting, Deputy Speaker Bou Saab made the following statement:
“I met with His Excellency the President and tackled with him current affairs, including the demarcation of southern maritime borders, latest developments that constitute an obstacle to the investigation of the port explosion, and the laws being studied in Parliament and required by the IMF”.
Questions & Answers:
Question: What are the developments in border demarcations?
Answer: “Media outlets reported two visits made by the American mediator to Israel, after his meeting with the three presidents at Baabda Palace.
The truth is that the American mediator, after the information he obtained from this meeting, moved to Israel and met with the Israeli premier, but he did not return to Israel again, as was mentioned in the media.
Of course, we are following up on this issue, and we are communicating with the US mediator. The negative talk that is mentioned in the media on this issue, whether it is from the Israeli enemy or in the Lebanese media, remains media talk. We inquired about the matter, and it became clear to us that the official position is contrary to what is mentioned in the media. What we have reached today has nothing to do with the media, whether it is positive or negative. We do not know what the final answer will be, but we were assured that the effort being made is still on-going, and has not stopped. The American mediator is keen to continue efforts, based on the last meeting that took place in Baabda”.
Question: Is there a specific deadline for completing this file?
Answer: “There is no doubt that the condemned attack by Israel on Gaza delayed this file, but all Lebanese officials agree that we do not have the luxury of time, and time is not open to infinity. This issue is essential in order to maintain stability, and things should be finished before September”.
Question: What are the obstacles facing the investigation of the port explosion?
Answer: “There is a stalemate in the file of the investigation into the port explosion, and the date of August 4 has passed, and there was a campaign to keep up with this crime, and the wound is still open, but after August 4 we do not want to neglect this file and return to normal things.
Today or tomorrow we are supposed to hear an answer from the Supreme Judicial Council. Today, this council has a decree that the Minister of Justice has retrieved from the Minister of Finance and sent it to the Supreme Judicial Council, which has to raise its composition according to the decree, which mentions that there may be 11 chamber presidents and a first and only president who compose the general assembly.
The response of the Supreme Judicial Council between today and tomorrow is what determines the next stage. The decree can be issued including a list of 12 members, and we do not know who the names will be appointed because of the independence of the judiciary, which we respect. But what we cannot understand, and we hope will not happen. Then we will have question marks about the identity of the obstructionist, and what are the reasons. Today, at the political level, I was entrusted with following up this file by His Excellency the President, and I followed it up with Speaker Berri.
And I know that, politically, if this decree is lifted, there is no obstacle to its signature. When it is signed, the General Assembly meets and decides on the outstanding issues, and then the movement returns to the judiciary, for Judge Bitar to complete his files, or the General Assembly decides on the cases brought against Judge Bitar. So between today and tomorrow, we are supposed to hear an answer about the decree, after which the Minister of Justice submits it to the Minister of Finance for signature”.
Question: Where has the course of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund reached?
Answer: “The Parliament Speaker mentioned that there are laws required from the Parliament, which must be issued before entering the presidential elections, which is first the budget, as the Finance and Budget Committee works continuously to complete the budget, waiting for the Minister of Finance and the government to send them a decision to determine the exchange rate, because the whole budget will be based on this decision. The other required law, which was approved by Parliament, is the Banking Secrecy Law. I discussed this file today with His Excellency the President. This law was sent to Baabda Palace, but we are still within the time available to His Excellency to study the law, and I have understood from the President of the Republic that the study of law is nearing its end and will be signed by him.
There is also Capital Control, and on this subject there are different points of view. For my part, I have formed an advisory team of all parties concerned with the issue, i.e. from depositors, industrialists, the Association of Banks, and economic authorities. There is consensus on the need for capital control, but there are different views on it. Capital Control must be issued with another law, so that Capital Control does not harm depositors. Our goal with Capital Control is to protect depositors’ money. There is a view of some that calls, besides Capital Control, to recover the funds transferred abroad.
All the different points of view on the subject, we will put them in one report, which we present to the joint parliamentary committees for study, in preparation for the adoption of the Capital Control Law. Thus, the Parliament has approved the appropriate laws to achieve the recovery plan, which is required by the IMF. It is not necessary that we implement everything that this fund requires without discussion. Lebanon can negotiate with the International Monetary Fund and express its point of view. We have notes on some of what the IMF asks and we can discuss these notes, and perhaps reach to what we want”.
Minister Sharaf El-Din:
The President met the Displaced Minister, Issam Sharaf El-Din, and discussed with him ministerial affairs, and the issue of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
After the meeting, Minister Sharaf El-Din made the following statement:
“I was pleased today to visit the President of the Republic and discussed with him the file of the return of the displaced Syrians to their country, and my expected visit to Syria at the end of this week, on Sunday and Monday.
I was encouraged and blessed by His Excellency, because this issue is vital and humanitarian and has economic necessities in light of what Lebanon is suffering from. By God, we will have positive results by the next Monday and Tuesday, especially as the concerned Syrian bodies extend their hand for cooperation, and there are preparations for the success of the meetings, and a working paper that includes a complete return map and the idea of establishing a quartet committee from the Lebanese state that coordinates and follows up with the committee in Syria, and I am very optimistic”.
Questions & Answers:
Question: Will you be able to close the file of the return of the displaced?
Answer: “I do not promise to close the file, but it is enough for us to put the train on the tracks to reach safety. We presented our idea as the Ministry of the Displaced, and it received the approval of presidents, to return 16,000 displaced persons per month in proportion to the absorptive capacity of the Syrian state, because we want the displaced to return safely and dignified.
The Syrian state has pledged to establish shelters with all its requirements, including infrastructure, roads, electricity, potable water, sewage, schools and hospitals in the nearest place, while providing public transportation at very acceptable prices, and helping farmers to return to their lands. Noting that the idea is based on the principle of returning to the villages and the same environment from which the displaced were displaced, and we are optimistic, God willing”.
Question: Is your move today a continuation of the meeting that was held yesterday?
Answer: “There is a committee for the return of displaced Syrians to their country, consisting of seven ministers, headed by the Prime Minister. Here, I would like to clarify to the media that I was not absent from yesterday’s meeting, because the meeting was related to the competence of the two parties and the merger proposed in Brussels, which is totally rejected and the matter is the responsibility of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Social Affairs, in addition to the issue of those who enter illegally every month and who require framing and legalization, which are the responsibility of the General Security Directorate, and Major General Abbas Ibrahim was present.
In our work, we complement each other, and all of us, as a committee, speak within a framework and according to one logic. My task is to deal with the Syrian state and the bodies concerned with the matter and to form a file on everything related to the return of the displaced, starting with the UNHCR, passing through the ambassadors, to the envoys, so that we can know what they want and what can be implemented and followed up. I am in complete coordination with all ministers”.
President of the Lebanese Cultural University:
President Aoun met the President of the Lebanese Cultural University in the world, Dr. Nabih Al-Shartouni, at the head of a delegation from the university that included Mr. Georges Abi Raad (from France) and Mr. Shawki Al-Hajj (from Africa).
The delegation was accompanied by Father Elie Nasr and retired Brigadier General Noha Al-Shartouni. Dr. Shartouni invited President Aoun to attend the “First Expatriate Economic Conference for Lebanon” that the university will hold on Thursday, August 18, at the Holy Spirit University in Kaslik.
The President of the university explained that the number of participants in the conference is about 120 Lebanese scattered in Europe, Africa and the Americas, most of whom are businessmen and industrialists, and that the aim of holding it in Lebanon is to encourage scattered businessmen to invest in it, especially in the fields of industry, agriculture and tourism.
For his side, President Aoun wished the conference success, stressing the importance of the role that those deployed abroad play in helping their family members at home, especially in the difficult circumstances that Lebanon is going through.
Honoring Athletes Rita Abou Jaoudeh and Sandra Sukkar:
President Aoun honored the sports champion Rita Abou Jaoudeh, in the presence of his advisor for youth and sports affairs, and President of the Lebanese Fencing Federation, Mr. Jihad Salameh.
Abou Jaoudeh had achieved exceptional local and international results in fencing.
The President also honored the young Sandra Antoine Sukkar, who was ranked as a world champion in the MMA mixed martial arts game, in a final which took place in Amsterdam on March 29, where she ranked first and won the gold medal.
President Aoun awarded both sports champions the Lebanese Silver Medal of Merit in recognition of their victory and raising Lebanon’s name high in the sports field.
The honoring ceremony was attended by Rita Abu Jaoudeh’s father, retired Brigadier General, Elias Abu Jaoudeh, her brother Joseph, her husband Jimmy, her father-in-law Edward Abu Jaoudeh and her coach, Suhail Ayoub, Sandra’s coach, Mr. Mikhail Amer, and the sponsor of her activities, Mr. Kamal Bkassini, also attended.—Presidency Press Office