Lebanon News

Syria envoy denies receiving complaint

After meeting Mansour, Ali said recent correspondence from Lebanon dealt with bilateral cooperation.

BEIRUT: Syria’s Ambassador to Lebanon denied Wednesday receiving a letter of complaint from the Foreign Ministry over recent cross-border attacks, while brushing off the Arab League as a biased organization.

“I have not been given any letter of complaint from the Lebanese Foreign Ministry,” Ali Abdel-Karim Ali told reporters after a meeting with caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour.

Ali explained that he had received dozens of memos from the Lebanese government in recent months, saying the correspondence was in the framework of bilateral cooperation.

“I have received in recent months more than 24 memos, but not one of them was a complaint. They are part of a cooperative information exchange between the two countries, [and it will continue] as long as there are terrorists at our common and overlapping borders,” he said.

Ali also downplayed the significance of the complaint Lebanon is set to file with the Arab League over recent border violations.

“Is there still an Arab League? It announced its own death when it allowed states to arm terrorists inside Syria,” Ali said. “I ask the dear Lebanese state, the Foreign Ministry, the presidency and all relevant sides in this country: To whom will they send a letter of complaint, when the Arab League violated its charter and gave a seat to the [Syrian] opposition? The Arab League is no longer competent to receive complaints.”

President Michel Sleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati tasked Mansour Monday with sending a letter of complaint to the Arab League over recent Syrian cross-border violations. On Sunday, shelling by Syrian rebels claimed the lives of two Lebanese in the northeastern border region of Hermel.

The rebels said they had bombed what they believed were Hezbollah sites in Hermel, in retaliation for allegedly fighting alongside the Syrian army.

But Hezbollah argues that it is helping to defend the Lebanese residing in Syrian villages in Al-Qusair against attacks by Syrian rebels.

The Syrian army has also opened fire on Lebanese territories several times since the start of the uprising in March 2011.

Mansour said in comments published by a local media outlet Wednesday that the complaint made to the Arab League needs to be accompanied by measures from Beirut to prevent the entry of militants into Lebanon. Mansour also blamed the Arab League for supporting rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Ali denied that he had been summoned by the Lebanese foreign minister over cross-border violations and said that his meeting with Mansour was to “coordinate mutual causes.”

“I asked for an appointment with the minister to hold consultations on several issues. I was definitely not summoned by him [Mansour],” he said.

Ali denied that Syrian government forces had attacked Lebanese territory, saying that “it has only responded to the sources of fire.”

He added that his country was the one “under attack,” and that fighters coming from Lebanon have infiltrated Syria to take part in the conflict.

“Some Lebanese have gone there to participate in the killing of Syrians,” he said.

Minyeh MP Ahmad Fatfat, from the Future Movement, slammed Mansour for a lack of “patriotism.”

Mansour, he told the Central News Agency, “has become the foreign minister of the Bashar Assad regime, while the Syrian ambassador behaves as if he is the foreign minister of Lebanon.”

For its part, the March 14 General Secretariat condemned the attacks on Lebanese soil, irrespective of the party responsible:

“The General Secretariat considers any shelling, kidnapping or attack against Lebanese territory and the Lebanese people as crossing a red line, whether committed by the Syrian army, which always perpetrates these acts ... or the Free Syrian Army or anyone else from the Syrian side of the border.”

The statement called on the state to deploy the Army along with international troops on borders shared with Syria, in line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.

The General Secretariat called on Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria in order to spare Lebanese cities and villages potential retaliation from Syrian rebels.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 18, 2013, on page 3.




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