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Lebanon sees international, regional support

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman (L) attends the 25th Arab League summit at Bayan palace in Kuwait City on March 25, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/YASSER AL-ZAYYAT)

Lebanon saw strong support at the Arab summit in Kuwait, senior political sources told The Daily Star. Regional interest in the country’s well-being was, according to the sources, evident in the details of the statement issued after the summit and during bilateral meetings that President Michel Sleiman held with several Arab leaders.

During these meetings, Arab leaders expressed unlimited support for Lebanon to ensure that the country’s new Cabinet was capable of tackling the refugee crisis and the repercussions of the Syria war.

Top Arab officials, along with their Western counterparts, also voiced an interest in keeping Lebanon at a distance from regional conflicts.

Sources stressed that the formation of Tammam Salam’s government greatly encouraged international and Arab support, as a legitimate executive authority now exists in Lebanon to receive aid pledges during international and Arab donor conferences, specifically the upcoming Rome conference to support the Lebanese Army.

The Arab summit has worked to affirm international political cover for Lebanon, the sources added, with numerous Arab presidents and monarchs, or those representing them at the summit, declaring it necessary to distance Lebanon from regional conflicts and from making alliances with rival regional players, while ensuring consensus among Lebanese politicians. The latter was observable during the first Cabinet meeting in which discussions took place and consensus was reached irrespective of differences in points of view.

The sources expressed hope that government consensus would prevail at Monday’s National Dialogue Session in Baabda Palace, which is expected to set the first step of the National Defense Strategy, allowing the military establishment and Security Forces to begin implementing security missions across the country, as the forces have so far proven successful in carrying out operations and security plans created by the Higher Defense Council.

The sources noted that though these plans did not put an end to the security incidents sweeping the country, they indicated a level of consensus among relevant parties that certain centers of crime and tense areas in the Bekaa Valley and Tripoli needed to be contained.

Sources told The Daily Star that Lebanese officials approached foreign ambassadors during meetings to facilitate the provision of military assistance, particularly assistance paid for by the Saudi grant to purchase advanced French arms, as the upcoming presidential election would require a relatively stable atmosphere in the country.

The international arena remains determined in its assertion that stability in Lebanon ought to be maintained, despite rising tensions between the United States and Russia. International players have emphasized that the country’s next president should be “made in Lebanon” and should also be elected within the constitutional deadlines.

The sources added that the status quo hinges on regional developments, especially in Syria.

A ministerial source, however, said priority should be given to the Syrian refugee issue. The source suggested the formation of refugee camps in the border areas adjacent to Syria, as former Prime Minister Najib Mikati had previously recommended.

This issue was also tackled behind closed doors during the Arab Summit, since Syria was an Arab country after all and Lebanon should not bear the consequences of its war alone, the source said.

Separately, former Minister Wadih al-Khazen told The Daily Star after a visit to the Holy See that the latter “supports holding the presidential election apart from any external influence.”

Separately, a senior delegation from the Vatican arrived to Beirut Thursday night, sources told The Daily Star. The visit aims to check in on the Maronite Church, but sources well acquainted with the issue said the delegation also sought to discuss the upcoming presidential election.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 29, 2014, on page 2.

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Summary

Lebanon saw strong support at the Arab summit in Kuwait, senior political sources told The Daily Star.

Sources stressed that the formation of Tammam Salam's government greatly encouraged international and Arab support, as a legitimate executive authority now exists in Lebanon to receive aid pledges during international and Arab donor conferences, specifically the upcoming Rome conference to support the Lebanese Army.

The Arab summit has worked to affirm international political cover for Lebanon, the sources added, with numerous Arab presidents and monarchs, or those representing them at the summit, declaring it necessary to distance Lebanon from regional conflicts and from making alliances with rival regional players, while ensuring consensus among Lebanese politicians.

This issue was also tackled behind closed doors during the Arab Summit, since Syria was an Arab country after all and Lebanon should not bear the consequences of its war alone, the source said.


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