BEIRUT: Rival March 8 and March 14 camps faced off Tuesday over the country’s official position on the growing crisis in Syria, which is encountering growing diplomatic isolation and pressure in the region.
While the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition continued to defend its support for the Syrian regime in its crackdown on opposition groups, the Future Movement-led March 14 alliance called on Syrian authorities to put an end to “crimes against humanity” and swiftly implement political reforms.
The Future Movement parliamentary bloc said the ongoing violence against Syrian opposition groups and the killing of protesters in Syria should immediately come to an end in order to pave the way for political reforms that guarantee the Syrian people freedom and democracy.
Despite growing international condemnation, including a sudden wave of Arab criticism, the Syrian regime continued its campaign against protesters Tuesday. Around 1,600 civilians have been killed in the government’s crackdown since the uprising began nearly five months ago.
“As the Arab and international positions with regard to the events in Syria intensify, it is necessary, without any delay or hesitation, to stop violence and crimes against humanity, as well as withdraw the army from the streets and hold those who killed protesters accountable,” the Future Movement statement said.
Syrian authorities say they have faced attacks since the protests erupted in March, blaming armed saboteurs for civilian deaths and accusing them of killing some 500 security personnel.
Rallying in Syria’s defense, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun dismissed reports of any incidents in Syria, describing the country’s situation as calm with the exception of “minor incidents in a neighborhood or two in Homs.”
Aoun accused the West of seeking to divide the Syrian people and provoke civil strife in a bid to weaken the regime and serve the interests of Israel.
“The danger is outside Syria and what is happening is media pressure,” Aoun said.
He added that the Western pressure was aimed at pushing Syria into severing its ties with Iran and resistance movements in Lebanon and Gaza.
Snapping back at Syria’s allies in the March 8-dominated government, lawmakers of the Future Movement described the positions articulated by Lebanon’s foreign minister during his visit to Damascus as a “reminder of the era of Syrian tutelage over Lebanon.”
“Lebanon has special ties with Syria and is keen to preserve them but on the basis of mutual respect rather than through the complete surrender of the role of the Lebanese state,” Future Movement MPs said in a statement released after their weekly meeting.
Over the weekend Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour expressed Lebanon’s rejection of interfering in Syria’s internal affairs during talks with President Bashar Assad, who praised Lebanon’s position at last week’s U.N. Security Council meeting.
The Lebanese government washed its hands of a statement issued by the U.N. Security Council condemning violence in Syria.
Justifying the government’s position, Speaker Nabih Berri described Lebanon’s decision to disassociate itself from the statement as a balanced one.
“Our government’s position helped in averting a decision to launch a war against Syria and led to a balanced statement that urged the implementation of reforms while seeking an end to attempts to spark strife among Syrians,” Berri said during an iftar Monday evening.
Warning against the deepening schism between Lebanese camps, Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for strengthening Lebanese unity, in light of the “highly volatile” situation prevailing in the Arab world.
“The region is passing through a decisive and grave time which necessitates all Lebanese to strengthen internal unity,” Mikati said at an iftar Monday evening.
“We must prevent the danger from reaching our delicate internal structure, which cannot afford any destruction or teenage politics that could cause severe damage to national unity,” he added.
“Where would Lebanon’s interests lie if it were plunged into the turbulence surrounding us?” Mikati asked.
He called on the rival political camps to combine efforts to “strengthen stability and cooperate in order to allow the government to do its duty to ease the social burdens of day-to-day life on the Lebanese people.”