BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said Wednesday that the clashes in Arsal have proved that refugee camps could serve as hospitable environments for terrorists, and that the Lebanese Government refuses to construct camps within Lebanese territory.
“It has been revealed, and it is something we have warned about, that refugee camps could be hospitable environments for terrorists,” said Bassil in a news conference at the Foreign Ministry.
“A place filled with despair, poverty and neediness, [aided] by financial support and nourished with religious extremism, could be used to make a safe haven for terrorists and this is what happened in Arsal,” he said.
Bassil considered requests for the construction of refugee camps within Lebanese territory unsuitable, reminding that the Lebanese government had agreed that there would be no refugee camps within Lebanese territory.
The Foreign Minister urged politicians not to propose controversial issues while the Army is still facing the potential death and injury of its soldiers in Arsal.
“For example resolution 1701 which requires, at a minimum, national consensus before we can begin to consider it,” he said referring to the UN Security Council agreement that ended Lebanon’s 2006 war with Israel.
Bassil’s statement followed requests issued by several politicians in the past few days, urging the implementation of resolution 1701 to close off Syria’s border with Lebanon.
“It is not possible for a resolution that has been placed during a certain time, in a certain area and under certain conditions between Lebanon and Israel to be extended to cover a different region, different conditions and a different state,” he said.
The Foreign Minister spoke on a request issued by a faction of the Syrian opposition to the Arab League, calling for an emergency meeting over Arsal.
Bassil said that the request was obviously rejected because it was a violation of Lebanese sovereignty for a non-Lebanese entity to request a meeting on events inside Lebanon from an international body.
The Foreign Minister called for swift aid to the Lebanese Army saying that escalating tensions in the border town of Arsal necessitate a quick response.
“What we have faced in the past two days has received sympathy from a lot of states, and we are grateful for aid we have received from countries like the US, France and especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that has offered a new donation to the Lebanese Army,” he concluded, referring to a $1 billion grant vowed to the Army earlier Wednesday.
A clash emerged Saturday in Arsal, an eastern town bordering Syria, after militants from groups fighting in Syria attacked Army bases attempting to take over the mostly Sunni-village.
Confrontations have continued despite truce attempts, killing 17 Army soldiers and at least 12 civilians.
A preliminary cease-fire was breached by an assault on the Army Wednesday, prompting the latter to resume its military campaign against the extremist jihadists.