Lebanon News

Riyadh declaration will not impact Lebanon: Nasrallah

FILE - Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah giving a televised address during a memorial in Beirut, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

BEIRUT: The recent Riyadh summit will not have an impact on Lebanon, said Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah on Thursday, calling on Saudi Arabia to engage in dialogue with its arch-foe Iran.

The Hezbollah chief also blasted the summit, labeling the concluding statement as a "U.S.-Saudi declaration," and called on Saudi Arabia "not to waste its money."

"Consensus has maintained Lebanon's stability and security," Nasrallah said in a televised speech on the occasion of the 17th anniversary for the liberation of south Lebanon.

He hailed the stance announced by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil after the summit, describing it as "honest, courageous and responsible."

The Hezbollah chief condemned the summit for "failing to send the concluding statement to the attendees, who only heard about the declaration in media outlets."

The Saudi-led bloc’s concluding statement, issued after Lebanon had left the summit, called on Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria and come under the umbrella of the state.

"It's a disaster," Nasrallah said to the cheering crowds.

Returning from the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh Sunday night, Bassil tweeted to say he was unaware there would be a final statement from the meeting.

He said the statement was read after the Lebanese delegation had left the country.

Nasrallah also commended President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the Cabinet's position.

"It safeguards Lebanon and its unity. It affirms that we want to distance our country from the repercussions of such summits, whether Hezbollah supports or rejects them," he said.

The Cabinet attempted to distance Lebanon from statements made at the Riyadh summit that brought together over 50 Muslim leaders and U.S. President Donald Trump Sunday.

Most leaders blasted Iran and Hezbollah for their alleged role in exacerbating regional tensions.

Riyadh Summit a Charade

Nasrallah described the Riyadh Summit as a "scandal, weakness and charade" that sought to only honor Trump.

"Saudi Arabia was seeking to appear as the center that gathers all Arab countries, the main leader," he said.

Saudi Arabia sought to threaten Iran and its regional proxies, he added.

"This is worthless."

At the weekend summit in Riyadh, Trump called for a U.S. alliance with Muslim countries Sunday aimed at fighting terror, singling out Iran as a major source of funding and support for militants in the Arab world.

Trump accused Iran of funding and arming “terrorists, militias and other extremist groups” in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and backing President Bashar Assad in Syria’s civil war.

He called on all countries to work together to isolate Iran “until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace.”

He specifically named Sunni militant groups ISIS and al-Qaeda and Lebanon's Hezbollah alongside Hamas.

Trump’s choice of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s bitter regional rival, for his first official foreign visit reflects the deep antagonism of his administration toward the Islamic Republic.

Nasrallah said that Saudi Arabia "was seeking to protect itself," blasting it for “supporting the takfiri ideology.”

"[Riyadh] is in dire need to bribe the U.S. master to protect it amid the suspicion rising against it."

Iran Staunch Supporter of Resistance

Tehran "is a main backer for the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine,” Nasrallah said. “It stood by the Iraqi people when Daesh (ISIS) attempted to enter Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf. It stood by Syria after Saudi Arabia funded the armed groups."

He said that "Iran was seeking to bridge the gap between Muslims, while Saudi Arabia accused others of infidelity."

Nasrallah said that Saudi Arabia has a main problem called Iran and the resistance.

"They (Saudi) offered everything to Trump to boost the confrontation against Iran and the resistance. They wanted to push the U.S. to enter direct confrontation in the region."

Dialogue is the Only Way

The Hezbollah leader called on Saudi Arabia to engage in dialogue with Iran.

"Saudi Arabia did all it can to weaken Iran, but Iran is getting stronger, more immune and powerful ... I advise Saudi Arabia to set aside all conflicts and grudge."

He said that the path that Riyadh has taken "would only lead to more bloodshed. But you will fail and lose like you did so far, and Iran will win like it has."

"Don't waste your money and efforts ... the resistance [in the Arab world] will not weaken."

Delicate Stage

Lebanon and the Middle East are at a “sensitive stage,” Nasrallah warned.

"Only two countries stood by the Lebanese people, who were resisting occupation and creating victory; [they] were Syria and Iran," Nasrallah said.

Furthermore, western and Arab countries "offered Israel support and aid," Nasrallah said.

Lebanon's Resistance and Liberation Day marks the Israeli army’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000 after 22 years of occupation.

However, Israel still occupies parts of the Shebaa Farms and Ghajar village in south Lebanon.

"The national victory is the result of the sacrifices of the resistance fighters from all factions."

Nasrallah said that the "Syrian Army bore a tremendous burden” during the years that Israel occupied Lebanon.

"The victory was the result of the close cooperation before 2000 and after it between the resistance, the state and the Lebanese Army, [a relationship] that is governed by mutual trust," he added.

The Hezbollah leader appeared on a large screen during the speech at the Tadamon stadium in Hermel, northeast Lebanon.

Hundreds of supporters celebrating the party’s victory over Israel were in attendance.

"The matter of confronting occupation or suspicious conspiracies is linked to the will and faith of the people. No one will come to the people's aid," Nasrallah continued.

"What shapes the fate of the countries of the region is the will of the people, in Syria, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq and Palestine and all other countries subjected to all forms of occupation."

Nasrallah was interrupted several times by the cheering crowd.

Extremist Should Weigh Their Options

Nasrallah called on the people in the northeastern border town of Arsal and the government to exert efforts to "change the status quo" in the area.

"We are keen to spare the bloodshed and resolve the situation in peaceful means," he said.

He reiterated calls on the armed groups entrenched along the town to withdraw.

"Your battle will have no horizon," he said. "We should wrap up the matter."

Nasrallah also called on Hermel and the Bekaa Valley residents to cooperate with security forces to maintain security in the area.

"The Lebanese Army and security forces are undertaking the appropriate measures," Nasrallah said.

He said that the people of Hermel stood by the Lebanese Army in the battle against extremism.

"We are repeating the same experience with another army on a different arena."

Terrorist threats were fought off in stages, Nasrallah said: "Confronting them, expelling them from border areas, and securing the eastern Mountain Range."

He said that efforts were ongoing to grant general amnesty to the inmates "where it's possible."

Hezbollah began handing over military posts along Lebanon's eastern mountain range to the Lebanese Army earlier this month.

Militants belonging to al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, and Daesh (ISIS) maintain positions along the northeastern border.

Security agencies conduct intelligence operations in the area, arresting extremists and busting sleeper cells while the region is routinely targeted by Hezbollah and the Army.

Electoral Law Agreement Vital

"The time is narrowing ... We still hope that we can reach a new vote law," Nasrallah said, discussing Lebanon’s contentious parliamentary vote law.

He called on rival parties to reach an agreement in the best interest of “everyone.”

The Hezbollah leader said he opposes a parliamentary vacuum, extending the Parliament's term and holding the elections based on the 1960 vote law.

"A new electoral law guarantees the interests of everyone," he said.

Nasrallah praised Aoun's recent statements, saying they pave the way for more agreement.

Negotiations over a new electoral law had remained in limbo despite a series of intensive meetings between the country’s main political parties that failed to make any breakthrough in the months-long deadlock.

The ongoing failure has heightened fears of either a new extension of Parliament’s term or returning to the 1960 system, which all the parties publicly oppose.

Aoun Tuesday signaled his support for the upcoming parliamentary elections to be held under the disputed 1960 majoritarian law if no agreement is reached on a new system before the expiry of the legislature’s term next month.

The constitution dictates that if Parliament is dissolved then parliamentary elections should be held under the existing law.

Aoun had been one of the principal opponents of the 1960 law, claiming it sidelines Christian representation.

Sheikh Qassim Led Peaceful, Wise Acts

Turning to the rift with Bahrain, Nasrallah blasted the Gulf country for turning a deaf ear to the demands of its people.

"Instead ... they confronted them [the people] with arms, bullets, raids and violence."

He praised Shiite scholar Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, "who led peaceful protests with wisdom."

He criticized Bahrain for stripping Qassim of his citizenship in June 2016 and seeking to deport him.

Nasrallah called on Lebanon to publicly declare that it refuses the extradition of Qassim to Lebanon.

"Bahraini authorities should be informed of this stance."

He called on the Gulf nation to release Qassim and allow him to live peacefully.

Nasrallah urged the world to assume its responsibilities in this regard.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad al-Khalifa Wednesday launched an attack on Hezbollah over recent statements and said the Lebanese government was responsible for the group it deems a terrorist organization.

Hezbollah’s press office had released an official statement blasting Bahraini authorities over a police raid that took place in Diraz in which five people died and 286 others arrested Wednesday.

Nasrallah blasted U.S. President Trump as "shameless" for pressing Bahrain’s king to resort to such action.

A series of raids took place in Qassim’s hometown of Diraz as a sit-in took place. Police broke into the 80 year-old cleric’s home where some protesters sought refuge. Qassim was not arrested, but 286 were and at least five were killed in the operation. Bahraini authorities stripped Qassim of his citizenship in June 2016.

Nasrallah and Hezbollah have routinely criticized Bahrain for cracking down on massive protests by Shiites seeking greater rights in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

 

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