Aoun, Berri Agree to Meet, Put End to War of Words
President Michel Aoun held phone talks Thursday with Speaker Nabih Berri amid an unprecedented row between them and skyrocketing tensions between their supporters.
The phone call was held during Prime Minister Saad Hariri's meeting with Aoun in Baabda and at the premier's request, according to MTV.
“Hariri called Berri and then gave the phone to Aoun to discuss with the Speaker the Israeli threats over the oil file and the need to convene the Higher Defense Council to discuss the matter,” MTV said.
In a statement, the Presidency said Aoun's talks with Berri tackled “the issue of the repeated Israeli violations against Lebanon.”
“The challenges we are facing require us to turn the page on what happened lately and to work hand in hand to achieve Lebanon's interest,” the statement quoted Aoun as telling Berri.
The two leaders also agreed to meet on Tuesday to “mull the steps that should be taken to confront the repeated Israeli threats and discuss the general situations in the country.”
Berri's press office meanwhile echoed the Presidency's statement and added that the two leaders agreed to put an end to the war of words between AMAL and the FPM.
According to LBCI television, Berri “appreciated the president's initiative.”
Hariri meanwhile announced after meeting Aoun that “God willing, things will become positive between President Aoun and Speaker Berri.”
“The dignity of Speaker Berri is part of my dignity, the dignity of President Aoun and the dignity of the Lebanese people. I'm speaking in my name and in the name of the president,” Hariri said.
“We are facing a major attack on Lebanon's oil resources, especially in Block 9, and Lebanon will have bold and clear steps in this regard,” Hariri added.
The Aoun-Berri spat erupted after the president and the premier signed a decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of officers. Berri and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted that the decree should have carried the finance minister's signature.
The crisis between the two parties deteriorated dramatically after the emergence of a leaked video showing Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil – Aoun's son-in-law calling Berri a "thug" during a closed meeting.
The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil, with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil calling the foreign minister “lowly” and a “political dwarf.”
The video also sparked three days of unrest and protests that involved gunfire and sectarianly-charged standoffs between supporters of Aoun and Berri outside the FPM's headquarters in Sin el-Fil and in the town of Hadath – an FPM stronghold.