Lebanese opposition MP Walid Jumblatt.
(photo credit: AP)
After years of alliances with Western-leaning politicians and fierce anti-Syrian rhetoric, Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has issued a formal apology to Syrian President Bashar Assad for controversial statements slamming the Alawite regime.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Saturday night, Jumblatt said he had “offended Assad during a moment of anger,” adding that he knew his words must have been intolerable to the Syrian leader. “I used inappropriate language,” he told the news channel. His words were communicated by Al-Nahar.
The Druze politician, who heads Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist party, suggested that it was in both countries’ interests to turn over a new leaf. "In the past I would say: 'forgive but don't forget.' Today I say: 'forgive and forget,'" he was quoted as saying.
Jumblatt’s earlier rhetoric was fueled in part by rumors that Syria had perpetrated the murder of his father, Kamal Jumblatt, in 1977, and later former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. In the past, he had called Assad a dictator and a product of Israeli machinations.
Jumblatt’s position was further compromised by the rift caused in Lebanese society following Hariri’s assassination, when the Hizbullah-backed opposition and US and French-backed coalition clashed over Syria’s continued military presence in the country.
Though Syria withdrew from Lebanon in 2005, the leadership in Damascus
has cultivated close ties with that in Beirut. Lebanese Prime Minister
Rafik Hariri, who was elected in June 2009 and formed a coalition later
that year, made a historical official visit to Syria in December 2009.
In his Al Jazeera interview, Jumblatt stressed his willingness to visit
Damascus were he to receive an invitation from Assad. “I want to tell
the Syrian people that we share the same destiny,” he reportedly said.
“We are one people, one land.”
Jumblatt went on to speak of pressing regional issues, among them the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Arabs are divided everywhere” in the
face of Israeli and Western “aggression,” he said.
He concluded by saying that he hoped his son would grow up to “see a new, secular Middle East.”