BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition called Sunday for national reconciliation in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city that has been caught up in repeated rounds of violence directly linked to the war raging in neighboring Syria.
“There should be a national reconciliation in Tripoli similar to what happened in Mount Lebanon,” the group said after holding an expanded meeting of its members in the northern city, referring to the historic reconciliation between the Druze and Christians communities in Mount Lebanon.
The city has seen frequent deadly clashes between opponents and supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, primarily between the Sunni-dominated neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the majority Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen.
In August, car bombs outside two Tripoli mosques also killed 47 people and wounded scores more. Suspects in the attack include members from a local pro-Assad party based in Jabal Mohsen.
The conference, organized by March 14 under the title “Coexistence in the North is a Joint National Responsibility,” was held in the presence of around 200 prominent religious and political figures.
The grouping, in its nine-point proclamation, also noted that the reconciliation should take place after security was restored in the restive city and compensation was paid out to the victims of violence in the northern city.
The members also urged security forces to deal firmly with perpetrators in the city and demanded that those with links to August bombings and violence there be brought to justice.
“Trust must be restored between the people and the state through bringing to justice all those who have wronged the city,” the March 14 said in its statement.
The March 14 also called for a comprehensive plan to address poverty in Tripoli, Lebanon’s poorest city, and for ensuring development and job opportunities there.
Speaking during the conference, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora blamed Assad’s regime for the recurring strife in Tripoli and reiterated his call on Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria and return to the political fold.
Siniora also called for establishing stronger ties between Iran and its Arab neighbors following the recent nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
“I will say it frankly in my name and that of [former Prime Minister] Saad Hariri and the entire March 14 that the residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen are one family,” he said, referring to the Tripoli neighborhoods that have fought one another in increasing frequency since the uprising in Syria.
“It is well known who is running the schemes to divide them [the rival neighborhoods] and he [Assad] is running them from Aleppo and Homs and Hama,” Siniora added.
Siniora, who heads the Future parliamentary bloc, said the intermittent clashes in Tripoli had left “great wounds in the city,” adding that residents would not succumb to plots hatched by the Damascus regime.
“The Syrian regime wants to create strife in Lebanon and it wants to lead Sunnis toward extremism against the country's institutions, especially the Army,” he said.
“The residents of Tripoli will not succumb to the Syrian regime's plot,” he said.
Siniora also reiterated his call on Hezbollah to end its military role in Syria and return to the logic of the rule of the state.
“Hezbollah should return to Lebanon at all levels and end its involvement in Syria and stop being a side in the battle when Tehran asks it to,” Siniora said.
“The party [Hezbollah] is bringing everyday to the Lebanese and the Shiite sect the body of a young man who should be living with his family instead of being killed by a regime that kills innocent people,” the Future official added.
The former prime minister also reiterated his support for a recent nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers and called for reorganizing ties between Tehran and Arab states.
“We welcomed the nuclear deal between Iran and the [P5 1] world powers. Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear enrichment,” he said, adding that the same conditions should be applied to Israel.
“We also support Iran in opening up to Arab countries as a demonstration of the good neighbors policy and to a halt to the exporting of the principle of Wilayat al-Faqih,” Siniora said.
“Arab countries should also restore confidence with Iran and the doors are wide open for reorganizing Arab-Iranian ties,” he said.
Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough deal last month to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step toward resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff.
Siniora also said that his party rejected extremism of all kinds.
“We reject the fanaticism and [narrow-mindedness] of some Christians, we also reject Shiite extremism coming from Tehran through the Wilayat al-Faqih policy ... we also reject the extremism of some Sunnis who adopt the Takfiri [jihadist] approach and violence,” he said.