BEIRUT — Former Lebanese President Michel Aoun stated that he and his party, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), cannot be "accused of treason" by Hezbollah simply because they support the presidential candidacy of Jihad Azour. The remarks, made during a phone conversation between Michel Aoun and journalist Sami Kleib, were shared by the latter on Twitter this Monday.
A source close to Michel Aoun confirmed the content of these remarks to L'Orient-Le Jour.
Amal and Hezbollah have long supported Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh for presidency.
Frangieh has been categorically rejected by the FPM, which has aligned itself with Jihad Azour, who is also supported by the Lebanese Forces (LF), the Progressive Socialist Party, and some independents. While the Aounist party and Hezbollah have been long-standing allies, they disagree on which candidate to support for the presidency, which has been pending for months.
"I have never failed in my obligations [towards Hezbollah], neither during the 2006 war, nor in protecting the Resistance, nor in fighting against Daesh," Michel Aoun asserted.
When asked about the relationship between FPM and Hezbollah, Aoun said "[He] will not say anything against them," expressing concern that such a statement could be distorted in the press.
Sami Kleib reminded Aoun that Gebran Bassil, his son-in-law and current president of the FPM, has "raised his voice" against Hezbollah.
"Gebran talks about politics. Hassan Nasrallah and I have agreed on several occasions that political disagreement does not prevent friendship," replied the former head of state. "Can we be accused of treason simply because we refuse an imposed candidate?" he asked.
"It is up to the other camp to take the first step towards a solution."
Asked about his recent meeting with Bashar al-Assad, the first since 2009, and which focused on assessing weather the Syrian president was pressing for Frangieh's election, Aoun responded that he "did not feel any pressure." "We only briefly discussed this issue. The Syrian president has repeatedly told me that he does not interfere in the [Lebanese] presidency and does not want to interfere," he added.
Aoun's visit to Damascus and the topic of normalization between Beirut and Assad is controversial in Lebanon, despite Syria's recent reintegration into the Arab League after over ten years of exclusion.