The leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, said Thursday that the presidential election "is a national election, not only Christian or Maronite" and defended the idea of a "consensus" candidate.
Speaking from the University of Balamand near Tripoli, where he was received by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi, Bassil said he "discussed the presidential election" during their meeting.
His remarks follow Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai's Thursday call for Maronites to reject "withdrawal and narrow interests" as the presidential election has been stalled for months.
In remarks reported by the state-run National News Agency, Bassil went on to say that he "supports the call of the Christian archbishops who have been discussing with Patriarch Rai to reach an agreement on the election of a president, especially since this is a national election, not just a Christian or Maronite one."
On Feb. 1, bishops of the different Christian communities met at the Maronite patriarchate in Bkirki to ask Patriarch Rai to call a meeting of Christian MPs to discuss the presidential election.
Christian political leaders are divided over the presidential elections. Bassil is one of the unofficial candidates for the election.
"We are committed to finding a consensus, especially if it is done through the constitution and the quorum," Bassil said, referring to the minimum quorum of MPs needed for Parliament to elect a president.
That quorum is 86 MPs, but in each of Parliament's 11 electoral sessions, the quorum was lost when Hezbollah and its allied MPS left after the first round of voting.
"We want to achieve a rescue program and a president who implements it," Bassil added, without elaborating.
The Free Patriotic Movement leader also addressed the fallout from the powerful earthquake that ravaged Turkey and Syria, killing more than 17,500 people according to the latest provisional toll.
"We call on states to lift the humanitarian siege [in Syria] until people come out of this crisis," he continued, saying he was "committed to standing by" Damascus.
The Syrian regime is facing more than a decade of international sanctions, which could compromise the arrival of humanitarian aid in some areas. The UN special envoy for Syria made a public call Thursday not to politicize this humanitarian aid.