BEIRUT: Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil Monday voiced his country’s reservation and opposition to a recent resolution by the Arab League that he said failed to mention the Palestinian right of return, a crucial item for Lebanon.
During a news conference, Bassil said the ministry sent a letter of objection to the regional organization and held contacts with its head, Nabil Arabi, and the Palestinian Foreign Affairs Ministry to amend the statement, which was released on April 9.
“We gladly accepted the Arab League invitation to listen to the president of Palestine on developments in the negotiations with the Israeli side under the sponsorship of the U.S.,” Bassil told reporters.
“In that ministerial meeting, we supported the decisions which were expected to be in the final statement because it preserved the tripartite formula of the Arab Peace Initiative,” he said, referring to the need for Israel to withdrawal to the 1967 borders, the establishment of a Palestinian state and the right of refugees to return.
However, he added: “We were surprised to see that the right of return, or at least rejection of naturalization in Lebanon, was dropped from the final statement ... therefore, we announce our reservation and opposition against what happened."
Lebanon hosts more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees, many of whom live in a number of camps across the country.
“The right of return is a permanent Lebanese stance and that position can change if [Palestinians] abandon such a right. Lebanon's stance, then, will be outright rejection of naturalization,” he said.
Bassil argued that the right to return is guaranteed on the domestic, regional and international levels, citing decisions and agreements that oppose such a move.
The Lebanese Constitutional forbids naturalization, Bassil said, adding that such a move would damage the country’s demography.
He also cited Articles 2 and 4 of the Arab Peace Initiative, which he said guaranteed an opposition against attempts to naturalize Palestinians.
“Internationally, Article 11 of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 stipulates that refugees seeking to return should be allowed to, and compensation would be paid for those who decide to stay,” Bassil said.
“This represents the biggest obstacle for people attempting to impose naturalization in Lebanon. There is no power in the world that can change the will of two peoples [Palestinian and Lebanese] in solidarity over a rightful issue
“This also means that Lebanon is not concerned with any other agreement between Palestine and Israel,” Bassil said, adding that international law stipulates that any agreement between countries cannot be imposed on a state that is not a signatory party.
“The world will never understand the right to return in light of Israel’s stubbornness unless it threatens international peace and stability. Consequently, If Israel continues as such then the goal of the United States for stability in Lebanon will not be achieved,” he said.