BEIRUT: Saudi Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri vowed Sunday that his country would not allow terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to tamper with Lebanon’s security, saying the country’s stability was “a red line.”
“We will not allow ISIS and other groups to impose its decisions on the domestic scene,” Asiri told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. “Lebanon’s security and stability should be a red line.”
The envoy urged Muslim youths lured by extremism to instead embrace moderation, saying “weapons and force” were not the solution.
Asiri said job opportunities ought to be created for the youths so as drive them away from extremist ideologies. He also hoped that newly-elected Grand Mufti Abdel-Latif Deryan would lead efforts to promote “moderate religious rhetoric.”
Asiri hoped that vicious fighting between the Army and jihadists in the northeast Lebanon town of Arsal will not transfer to another Lebanese region, saying unity and cohesion among the people of Lebanon were necessary during those difficult times.
“Lebanese cohesion is the only means to safeguard Lebanon and preserve its stability,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has donated $1 billion to bolster the abilities of the Lebanese Army and security forces in combating terrorism, in the wake of five days of fighting between troops and takfiri militants from Syria in the border town of Arsal. Riyadh entrusted former Prime Minister Saad Hariri with the fresh grant to the military.
About the possibility of dialogue talks being held between Hariri’s Future Movement and their rivals in Hezbollah, Asiri said his country encouraged all sort of contact between components of Lebanese politics that would fall in Lebanon’s interest. He also highlighted that dialogue could take place in Lebanon and abroad.
“Constructive dialogue among the Lebanese is much needed to discuss future stages and drive off looming dangers and will benefit Lebanon on the long and short terms,” Asiri added.
The diplomat reiterated the need for swift presidential elections and one again highlighted that his country will not into the names game.
Asiri explained that contrary to previous Saudi donation of $3 billion for the Lebanese Army which governed by agreements between Lebanon and France and will materialize over several stages, the recent grant of $1 billion is meant to swiftly buttress the capabilities of the Army through direct contact between the Lebanese side represented by Premiere Hariri and Saudi Arabia.
In this vein, Asiri said that the needs of the Army will be assessed by Lebanese authorities. “The priority today is to preserve Lebanon’s stability, keep channels open with all groups and work towards the implementation of [grants] for the Army.”
Asiri said the decision to extend his tenure in Lebanon was made by Saudi King Abdullah in Lebanon in light of recent turmoil.
“The prudence of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques ruled that Lebanon should not remain without a Saudi representative pending the election of a new president,” Asiri said.