BEIRUT — Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai on Tuesday made separate visits to Lebanon’s top three politicians. Sources at the Grand Serail told L’Orient Today that at each visit Rai proposed allowing the Supreme Council — a judicial body tasked with trying presidents and ministers — to prosecute the MPs called for questioning in the investigation into the 2020 Beirut port explosion.
Here’s what we know:
• Rai first visited Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, then Prime Minister Najib Mikati and lastly President Michel Aoun.
• After meeting Mikati, the patriarch described the visits as “necessary in these hard times” and said he had discussed the matter of the current suspension of cabinet meetings. Mikati has indicated that cabinet sessions won’t resume until a solution is found to ministers’ disagreement over Judge Tarek Bitar’s leadership of the port blast probe.
• After the meeting with Aoun, Rai said that he had proposed a judicial solution that would solve the suspension of cabinet meetings, but didn’t elaborate as he said he does not have the authority to do so. Rai added the solution to the cabinet disagreement is through “politics and not the streets.”
• Sources told L’Orient Today’s correspondent at the Grand Serail that the proposed solution from Rai is to enable the Supreme Court to prosecute the MPs summoned by Bitar, while allowing the judge to continue his investigation.
• After meeting Berri, Rai said from Ain al-Tineh that the two had not discussed the Oct. 14 Tayyouneh clashes or the summoning of the head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea by the Military Court to provide testimony in the investigation into the incident; however, Rai stressed that he is opposed to the summoning.
• The Tayyouneh clashes, which left seven people dead and more than 30 wounded, broke out as protesters gathered to join a demonstration called by the Amal Movement and Hezbollah to oppose the “politicization” of Bitar’s investigation. The violence escalated into an hourslong gunfight between supporters of the Shiite parties Amal and Hezbollah and residents of the predominantly Christian areas of Ain al-Rummaneh and Furn al-Shubbek. Amal and Hezbollah have blamed sniper fire by LF members for instigating the clashes. The LF has denied this.