Gemayel, Franjieh vow to bolster Christian unity

7/26/2009 1:42:00 PM

Parties seek to end ‘depression and marginalization’

BEIRUT: Phalange party head Amin Gemayel and Marada Movement leader Sleiman Franjieh expressed their joint commitment on Sunday to strengthening the Christians’ role in Lebanon and the Middle East so as to put an end to the past era of “[Christian] depression and marginalization.”

Following discussions between the two leaders at Gemayel’s residence in the Metn town of Bekfaya, both leaders voiced hope that ties between their two parties would be consolidated, according to a statement by the Phalange Party.

The statement said the talks tackled three main topics, adding that the two politicians agreed to form a joint committee to follow up on the progress in the relations between the two parties as well as to promote harmony among their supporters.

Tackling the Christians’ role in Lebanon and the Middle East, Gemayel and Franjieh stressed the need to “prove its importance” with regard to national decision-making “in order to end the past period of depression and marginalization.”

“Both parties are committed to preserve the presidential [post] and boost its role by implementing the Taif agreement,” the statement said.

Concerning the Palestinian refugees’ issue, the two parties stressed the refugees’ right of return.

The Phalange statement, which underscored the two leaders’ commitment to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, added that both parties agreed to expand administrative decentralization and encourage the growth of a modern civil society.

Regarding inter-Christian dialogue, the statement highlighted the need for further understanding among Christian parties, “within the framework of their political diversity so as to secure Lebanon’s national unity.”

Gemayel and Franjieh agreed following the meeting in Bekfaya to “turn the page of the war.”

Sunday’s reunion was part of reconciliatory efforts to resolve disputes that dated back to the Lebanese 1975-90 Civil War.

Earlier last month, Amin Gemayel’s son, MP Sami Gemayel, held talks with Franjieh at the latter’s residence in the northern town of Bnashi, after which they stressed the need to work toward preserving and boosting the Christian role in the country.

However, contacts between Franjieh and Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea remained frozen despite the recent rapprochement between the Marada Movement and the LF’s main ally the Phalange party.

On Thursday, representatives of the LF, the Marada Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement attended a meeting of the Maronite League headed by Joseph Tarabey.

Following the meeting, a statement issued by the League’s political committee said the talks aimed “to follow up on the atmosphere of dialogue and to include Christian parties in the spirit of reconciliations.”

Franjieh accuses Geagea of the assassination of members of his family and other Marada supporters in the northern village of Ehden on June 13, 1978.