Lebanon News

March 14: Syria opposition should help end Arsal clashes

File photo of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Azakir)

BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition Tuesday appealed to the Syrian opposition to help end deadly clashes between the Lebanese Army and militants from Syria, holding Hezbollah and its allies responsible for the fighting in the Bekaa Valley border town.

“We affirm our demand [to the Syrian opposition], to be aware of the danger of having Syrian militants involved in an armed conflict in Lebanon and with the Lebanese security services," MP Fouad Siniora said, reading the coalition’s statement. “This requires that they work on ending this great violation, which could stab the Lebanese and Syrian people along with their rightful causes.”

“The Lebanese people, who have long supported the Syrian uprising and opened its borders for the Syrians, cannot accept for any Syria faction to carry arms in the face of the people and their security institutions primarily the Army or hold soldiers hostage and place security at risk under any excuse,” said the former premier.

The group also called on the government to request the deployment of a peacekeeping force along the border with Syria as part of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, saying the move would help to safeguard Lebanon from spillover violence.

“We ask that the government request from the U.N. Security Council to expand the mandate of resolution 1701 to support the Lebanese Army and deploy along the Lebanese-Syrian border,” Siniora said.

He said the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon had been largely successful in preserving calm on the southern frontier, adding that “it should be able to prevent the extension of the Syrian turmoil into Lebanon.”

The Future Movement-led coalition also demanded Hezbollah withdraw its fighters from Syria and put an end to the infiltration of gunmen along the border as part of what the group said was “an urgent salvation plan for Lebanon” that also included the establishment of refugee camps along the border.

Siniora described Hezbollah's disengagement from the war the next door as an “absolute national priority."

“The March 14 coalition believes that Hezbollah and its allies are largely responsible for what Arsal, Lebanon and its Army are being subjected to,” Siniora said.

“This is because Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria alongside the Syrian regime has prevented successive Lebanese governments from making any decision or measure to protect Lebanon and distance it from the conflict in Syria,” Siniora said.

Siniora called on militants in Arsal to release all kidnapped soldiers and for all non-Lebanese militants to withdraw from the northeastern border town, which has been overrun by gunmen from Syria.

He also asked the government to build refugee centers near the borders with Lebanon in order to better organize and control more than 1 million Syrian refugees in the country, and said the election of a new president would safeguard Lebanon from surrounding dangers.

He added: "We will organize a campaign to launch contacts locally and abroad to guarantee the success of the salvation plan.”





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