Invitations to meet the French Foreign Minister

Beirut, May 6, 2021

The French embassy invited what it called “opposition parties and groups” to meet with its foreign minister during his visit to Lebanon. The declared French position on Lebanon has evolved from proposing a “mission” government, to supporting the formation of a government headed by Saad Hariri, towards declaring the need to form a government with exceptional legislative powers. This development reflects a growing awareness of the gravity of the situation in Lebanon and the inability of sectarian leaders to handle its repercussions.

However, this position is still within the realm of searching for means and has not crystallized to the point of examining the causes of the fall. Consequently, this position does not include a stance on the solution itself.

We, in the Citizens in a State movement, see that the financial collapse and its consequent tragedies are not the result of coincidence, conspiracy, or lack of technical skills or oversight. Instead, it is the result of a political system based exclusively on an arrangement between sectarian leaders since the end of the civil war, which has managed to prolong its life, despite exhausting its socio-economic foundations as early as the mid-nineties, by exploiting a series of unforeseeable circumstances and contingent international political developments, even though it was piling up losses to unprecedented levels.

Without a clear examination of the starting point, and without specifying the point of arrival – that is, a solution in the form of a political project – there is no point in talking about the means, be it transitional government, elections, or anything else.

We, in the Citizens in a State movement, have defined the starting point; that is the diagnosis of what led to this fall. We have also defined the goal; that is a comprehensive political project which we proposed. And we have drawn the paths of transition; that is forms of political action which we follow.

We do not see today other than two comprehensive proposals. The first is that of the ancien regime, which is limited to consolidating the bounds  between its sectarian pillars to manage scarcity and repression in anticipation of an external opportunity that has no specific date or format. The second is our proposal, which is grounded on Lebanon’s urgent need for an effective state; in Lebanon’s context, this state can only be effective if it is a civil state, whose legitimacy and foundations should be established through a transitional government with legislative powers. As for the rest of the political landscape, it is largely limited to expressing objections, petitions, and other performative stunts.

Our comprehensive proposal is published, and its concepts are now on every tongue. We are working to strengthen our proposal further in pursuit of a change in the balance of power, leading to the imposition of negotiations with the sectarian leaders, so that the transition be peaceful. Whoever stands on the side of the opposition is invited to debate our proposal, in support, criticism, or rejection. If rejected, then this oppositional organization must present an alternative proposal. Otherwise, by rejecting the only comprehensive proposal without offering an alternative, it would be serving the ancien regime’s proposal, willingly or unwillingly.

In the meantime, we refrained from participating in the meeting called for by the French embassy in order to avoid two dangerous slips: wasting the efforts that we are making in Lebanon to redefine the state’s relationship with the people and their concerns by diluting them in the midst of scattered slogans and conflicting aspirations, and making the French witness this dispersion and confusion that defines the oppositional political landscape at a time when we are trying to consolidate the opposition behind well-defined choices.

Having said this, we reaffirm our readiness to engage with external parties, especially with countries that still pay attention to the tragic situation in Lebanon. The French Republic is at the forefront of these countries, although we are well aware that, as a state, it has its own interests, particularly after the failed system of sectarian leaders reduced our country into a beggar at the international stage or a mere card in their bargains.

Politics is primarily a matter of responsibility. For that we openly declare our choices at home and towards external parties, given that we are confident of these choices, and we are committed to them, be it in negotiations, elections, alliances and in every other viable forum.