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Lebanon’s fate hinges on Arsal: Politicians

Smoke rises near a mosque as clashes continue between Lebanese army soldiers and Islamist militants in the the Sunni Muslim border town of Arsal, in eastern Bekaa Valley August 4, 2014. REUTERS/Hassan Abdallah

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s political leaders Monday expressed their undying support for the Lebanese Army, currently battling militants from Syria, warning that the country’s fate hinges on the consequences of this fight.

Head of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt said the nation states in the Arab region, created as a the result of Western agreements, were nearing their end, and called on rivals to come together in support of the Army to safeguard Lebanon.

“The nation states that were born as a result of the Sykes-Picot and the Treaty of Lausanne are on the verge of collapse, in exchange for the rise of sectarian and confessional entities that are redrawing borders with iron, fire, massacres and displacement,” Jumblatt said in a statement.

“Geopolitics is witnessing unprecedented changes and the so-called ISIS is now the status quo as it stands on the rubble of these nation states like Syria and Iraq.”

He said that the Syrian regime most likely had a hand in creating groups such as ISIS, but that the latter had grown into an “uncontrollable giant.”

“This is reminiscent of US policies, and those of some Arab states, that created the phenomenon of Osama Bin Laden and supported the likes of him to combat communism in Afghanistan. This creation then turned on the creators.”

While condemning the international silence toward ISIS, Jumblatt said the Arsal battle between the Lebanese Army and militants was a matter of destiny.

“What is needed is for us to remain on high alert and recognize that the battle in Lebanon has become an existential battle, and too big to be merely a battle of interests.”

Jumblatt said politicians who blame Hezbollah for the current situation and “are creating a political front to attack the Army” should recognize that such a behavior jeopardizes what he described as the foundations of the Lebanese entity, with its moderation and diversity.

The PSP leader praised former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s support for the Army especially in this critical phase of history, indirectly criticizing other members of the Future Movement.

"But some of the voices are irresponsible and place the Army and Lebanon at great risk instead of searching for means to strengthen the atmosphere of unity among the Lebanese,” he said.

"Politicians, rivals and former allies, should work together to preserve the Lebanese entity and rise to the occasion imposed by these ongoing developments.”

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for concrete support for the Army in its Arsal fight, condemning some politicians’ selfish stands on the matter.

“The support that has been given so far is not enough and it almost has no strategic value at all,” Berri told visitors over the weekend, “especially compared to the size of the battles [the Army] is fighting in order to preserve stability and defend Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

Berri reminded his visitors of the initiative he launched on Aug. 31, 2013, where he called for increasing the Army’s equipment and the recruitment of 5,000 additional soldiers.

The speaker described the fight in Arsal as the “battle to defend Lebanon,” stressing that despite the deviancy of some of its citizens, Arsal remains a town known for its patriotism.

Warning about the possible spread of similar incidents to other areas in Lebanon and especially Tripoli, Berri condemned some comments by lawmakers who he accused of prioritizing their electoral interest over the national interest of their country.

“We have dedicated all efforts to achieve stability in Tripoli. But unfortunately some speeches, by some MPs aspiring to preserve their seats in Parliament, are harming Lebanon and instigating tensions, by defaming the military institution instead of standing alongside the Army in such a sensitive moment.

The Amal Movement leader on the other hand praised Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Jumblatt for his recent stands.

“This man does not lose the compass in the fateful moment,” he said, stressing that all politicians’ stands should avoid ambiguity, “because this is about the destiny of the nation, and not of individuals or parties.”

Berri revealed that Salam had called him to discuss the situation and support for the Lebanese Army. The speaker also said he was called by Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya MP Imad Hout, who suggested a cease-fire in Arsal, after which the militants will withdraw from the town.

However, Berri said he rejected such proposals, stressing that no cease-fire could be accepted before the militants release the kidnapped Army soldiers and totally withdraw from Lebanese territory.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also spoke about the ongoing clashes in the northeastern town, announcing his party’s " full backing of the Lebanese Army in its fight against the foreign, terrorist militants."

Offering his condolences to the families of soldiers who were killed in the fighting, Geagea asked the government to request that the U.N. Security Council expand the mandate of the U.N. Interim force in Lebanon.

"We ask that the Cabinet immediately ask the Security Council to expand U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 particular article 12 that would allow the council to deploy international troops [along the border],” he said in a statement.

"It would help Lebanon strengthen its sovereignty on all of its territory and protect civilians at risk of violence.”

Meanwhile, acting U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Ross Mountain deplored the attack on the Army, reiterating that the U.N. was committed to the country’s security and military.

“The acting U.N. Special Coordinator strongly condemns the attacks on Lebanese Armed Forces positions and the violence in and around the town of Arsal, which have led to the deaths, injury and abduction of soldiers and members of the security forces and caused civilian fatalities and injuries,” Mountain said in a statement.

“The United Nations is committed to the stability and security of Lebanon and the Acting Special Coordinator reiterates the United Nations strong support for the Lebanese Armed Forces and the security forces of Lebanon in their efforts to achieve this goal.”

 

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