Lebanon’s opposition March 14 coalition has received serious signals that Syria’s unconditional acceptance of an Arab League plan to end the eight-month-long unrest in the country came as a result of internal, Arab and international pressures, sources said Friday.
Damascus’ approval of the Arab initiative, reached at an Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo Wednesday, reflected painful concessions by the Syrian regime with regard to the withdrawal of military vehicles from Syrian cities, stopping bloodshed, the release of prisoners, allowing foreign media outlets to cover what is happening in Syria and the launch of dialogue with protesters within two weeks.
All this in addition to the handover by Syrian authorities of Wael Abbas, the alleged mastermind behind the abduction of seven Estonian tourists who were released in July, to Lebanon’s General Security at the Masnaa border crossing Wednesday were a gesture of goodwill from the Syrian regime toward the international community that it wants to cooperate and desist from following a policy of security escalation in Lebanon, the sources said.
Damascus’ gesture has confirmed the critical position of Syria whose tanks and armored vehicles will not stop shelling unarmed civilians unless it receives definite guarantees from the West about its staying in power with some reforms and amendments at the official performance level, the sources added.
Given the strained Lebanese-Syrian relations, the Syrian violations of the Lebanese border will persist, provoking resentment of large segments of the Lebanese community, the sources said.
Beirut MP Nabil de Freij, from former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s parliamentary Future bloc, said: “Lebanon is a sovereign, free and independent country. The era of Syrian tutelage had ended with the 2005 independence uprising. Therefore, the continuation of these Syrian violations is a challenge to the Lebanese state’s prestige.”
De Freij told The Daily Star that under the Treaty of Brotherhood and Coordination signed by the two countries during the era of the late President Elias Hrawi and slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese and Syrian armies, for security reasons, each has the right to cross the border of the other country but with the approval of the two sides.
“Hence, according to existing norms, we ask: Did the Syrian government ask its Lebanese counterpart for permission to enter? If this happened, why didn’t our government tell its people about what happened? After all, it is responsible for the people’s security and interests and is supposed to adopt a decisive and clear stance that puts an end to speculation and interpretation,” de Freij said.
In de Freij’s eyes, the only way for the salvation of the Lebanese entity, state and institutions is by returning to dialogue.
De Freij’s position is striking because the majority of March 14 parties currently reject the idea of dialogue which, in their eyes, is aimed at overshadowing the issue of illegitimate arms when March 8 parties bring up other topics for discussion.
However, de Freij hopes that an unpoliticized international tribunal, enjoying good reputation, will put a final end to the cycle of assassinations which has hit the Lebanese since the 1970s.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri told his Twitter followers Friday that he would return to Lebanon. Hariri lamented his absence from Lebanon, saying that he misses his city, Beirut, and longs to return to Lebanon. “I miss Beirut and I miss Lebanon, but mostly I miss the [Lebanese] people,” he told his followers on Twitter. Hariri has been out of Lebanon since April for security reasons.
Earlier, The Daily Star learned from reliable sources that Hariri told a delegation of March 14 politicians who visited him in Saudi Arabia last month to extend condolences upon the death of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz that he was planning to return to Lebanon before the end of the year. According to the sources, Hariri did not explain the reasons that prompted him to take this decision, even though it could be that the security reasons that kept him out of the country no longer exist.