No positive developments came from the much-anticipated Saudi-Iranian meeting in New York over the weekend, which was the culmination of several attempts by regional powers to establish a better relationship between Tehran and Riyadh. The meeting between Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif tackled the latest developments in the region, sources familiar with the talks said.
The meeting happened as Shiite Houthi rebels, who are believed to be supported by Iran, took control of key institutions in the Yemeni capital. This action has triggered clashes between the rebels and the army-backed Sunni militiamen belonging to the influential Islah Party.
The sources said that the recent developments in the Sunni-dominated country had revealed Iran’s real intentions, namely to consolidate its power in the region, partly in response to Saudi Arabia’s inclusion in the international coalition against ISIS, and Tehran’s exclusion.
Last week, the Houthis consolidated their control over strongholds and key institutions in Sanaa, after refusing to see Yemen divided into a six-region federation.
The sources see parallels with the events of May 2008 in Lebanon, when Hezbollah took over many areas of West Beirut. The clashes turned into street fighting between allies of Hezbollah and of the March 14 bloc.
Hezbollah came out on top in the confrontation, much as it appears that the Houthi rebels are going to come out on top in the events in Yemen.
Over the weekend a U.N.-brokered peace agreement was signed between the clashing groups in Yemen, a deal that the sources considered similar to the 2008 Doha agreement that may have prevented sectarian clashes in Lebanon from turning into another civil war.
This caused the sources to dismiss reports saying that the Saudi-Iranian meeting had resulted in a comprehensive agreement over the Yemeni situation.
According the sources, the New York meeting didn’t tackle the developments in Yemen. The Saudi-Iranian meeting was limited to regional issues that are of interest to both countries.
Additionally, based on diplomatic information they acquired, the sources said the meeting did not have any implications for Lebanon.
Lebanon, according to the sources, is not the top priority of the two countries, since time is needed to prepare the right circumstances to settle the country’s issues, the main one being the issue of the presidency.
“Saudi-Iranian meeting fails to resolve issues”
Since May 25, Lebanon has been without a head of state, and Parliament has failed to convene numerous times due to the lack of a quorum.
Despite regional developments, communication between key parties inside Lebanon has been heightened, with a view to finding a solution to the presidency issue.
Trilateral contacts between Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour and the head of Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s office, Nader Hariri, are ongoing. The latest meeting was held in the last 48 hours.
The meetings have been focusing on finding common ground between the Future Movement and the Shiite parties – Hezbollah and the Amal Movement – over the issues of Parliament’s extension and the holding of legislative sessions.
Speaker Nabih Berri has expressed his disagreement with the idea of extending Parliament’s current term, unless it gains back its legislative authority.
Berri believes that there is no point in extending the term of an inactive Parliament that cannot pass laws.
However, the Future Movement will settle for Parliament’s being able to pass laws related to urgent issues. The movement is basing its decision on the Constitution, which says the Parliament should meet constantly to elect a new head of state if a president has not been elected.
Time is passing without any tangible progress being made, and Nov. 22, the date set for the parliamentary elections, is looming. Analysts fear that this time, an extension will not take place.
“This means that Parliament’s rule would be dissolved. The Constitution is very precise in this regard,” an analyst explained.
According to the Constitution, when Parliament’s term ends, this automatically means that the government resigns and works as a caretaker government with limited jurisdiction until a new government can take over.
“Hence, Lebanon is facing the prospect of a presidential and parliamentary vacuum and a resigned government,” the analyst said.
This issue can’t be solved until all political factions convene and discuss a way to revive constitutional institutions.
“Time is limited and this is adding pressures on Lebanese leaders,” a political source said. The source added that there were no guarantees for Lebanon, given the security situation along the borders.
“The fear increases not only for the institutions but also for the Lebanese entity,” the source said.
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