BEIRUT: Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil Monday voiced Lebanon’s opposition to a recent Arab League resolution because it failed to mention the Palestinian right of return.
During a news conference, Bassil said the ministry had sent a letter of complaint to the organization and had held contacts with its head, Nabil Elarabi, and the Palestinian Foreign Affairs Ministry urging an amendment to the statement, which was released April 9.
“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’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders, the establishment of a Palestinian state and the right of refugees to return. “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 to what happened.”
Lebanon hosts more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees who do not have Lebanese nationality.
“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.
The Lebanese Constitutional forbids naturalization, Bassil said, adding that such a move would damage the country’s demography.
He cited Articles 2 and 4 of the Arab Peace Initiative and Article 11 of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194, which he said “stipulates that refugees seeking to return should be allowed to, and compensation would be paid for those who decide to stay.”
“This represents the biggest obstacle for people attempting to impose naturalization in Lebanon ... This also means that Lebanon is not concerned with any other agreement between Palestine and Israel.”
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 15, 2014, on page 3.