Hezbollah rejected on Thursday criticism apparently leveled at it two days ago by its Christian ally, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, who appeared to accuse the party, without explicitly naming it, of having "broken an agreement" regarding the boycott of cabinet meetings called by caretakter Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
In a rare statement, the party led by Hassan Nasrallah also denied having promised Bassil that the government ministers affiliated to it "would boycott urgent government meetings if the FPM ministers are absent."
In a press conference on Tuesday, Bassil criticized Monday's cabinet meeting and estimated that there must have been "a prior agreement" to allow the meeting to take place and that "without it Najib Mikati would not have dared to invite the ministers" for the cabinet meeting. "Our problem is not with him [Mikati], but with his enablers, with the honest [people] who broke our agreement," Bassil said, in a possible reference to Hezbollah and/or Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, both of whom were in favor of holding the cabinet session.
A political tug-of-war is ongoing between Mikati and the FPM camp, which accuses him of wanting to take over the prerogatives of the head of state after former President Michel Aoun's term in office ended on Oct. 31.
"Hezbollah has not promised that the caretaker cabinet will only meet following an agreement between its components for Bassil to consider the meeting that took place as a betrayal," Hezbollah said in its statement. "The caretaker cabinet only meets in cases of extreme necessity. Its decisions must be taken with the agreement of the majority. We did not say that the government will meet only after an agreement between its components," the pro-Iranian party added. It also assured "not to have promised the FPM that the Hezbollah ministers will boycott the urgent meetings of the cabinet if the FPM ministers are absent."
"Honest people did not betray their promise. It may be that there was confusion with Bassil who made a mistake by accusing honest people of something they did not commit," Hezbollah said in its statement.
"To give political interpretations to our participation in the cabinet meeting, and to say for example that it is a strong message regarding the presidential election, that it is a pressure on a political party in the framework of the presidential election, or that it is intended to force someone's hand ..., are only illusions," the statement concluded.
In the presidential race, Hezbollah's preferred candidate is its other Christian ally, Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh. Bassil refuses to vote for Frangieh.
Later on Thursday, FPM's press office issued a statement accusing Hezbollah of being "ambiguous," adding that the party's statement "carries contradictions between the concern for unanimity in decision-making, while this does not apply to participation in [cabinet] meetings."
"If there is no consensus on participation [in cabinet meetings], then how can there be consensus in decision-making?" the FPM press office said. "The last thing we want is to enter into a media debate with Hezbollah."
The FPM also recalled that on Nov. 3, 2022, "Parliament confirmed that the interim government could only meet in case of an emergency or exceptional cases."
"It seems that there is ambiguity and lack of clarity among Hezbollah leaders about what happened," the FPM said. "As for our friendship [with Hezbollah], the FPM knows its meaning well because it does everything necessary to preserve it, except for what is related to the issue of role, presence and partnership."