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Mikati tells Ban he’s trying to insulate Lebanon

Mikati meets with Ban in New York.

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Thursday that his government was trying to insulate Lebanon from the developments in the region, particularly the reverberations of the turmoil in neighboring Syria.

For his part, Ban voiced his concern over a further deterioration of the 18-month-old conflict in Syria, warning that this might affect neighboring countries, including Lebanon.

“My aim is to isolate Lebanon from the ongoing events in the region so that it can keep the immunity against the repercussions of events in Syria,” Mikati said during the meeting with Ban held at the latter’s office at the U.N. in New York, according to a statement released by the premier’s media office.

He reiterated his government’s policy to disassociate Lebanon from the developments of the crisis in Syria.

“In politics and security, we have disassociated ourselves from what is happening in Syria. But in the humanitarian issue, we are fulfilling all our obligations to help the Syrian refugees and ensure their humanitarian needs,” he added. Mikati said the government was coordinating in this respect with the U.N. refugee agency, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

“But definitely we need more aid to face what might happen,” he said.

Noting that Lebanon respected the legitimacy of the United Nations and was committed to U.N. resolutions, Mikati underlined the need to find “a peaceful solution for the conflict in Syria and halt the violence and bloodshed,” according to the statement.

He voiced support for the mission of U.N.-Arab League peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, while stressing the importance of all states supporting this mission.

Mikati also renewed Lebanon’s commitment to U.N. Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon. “But we demand that pressure be brought to bear on Israel to respect and implement this resolution and stop its repeated violations of Lebanese sovereignty,” he said.

Mikati stressed the need for supporting the Lebanese Army in order to enable it to carry out its security missions. He said the government had approved a five-year plan to bolster the Army’s military capabilities.

For his part, Ban voiced appreciation for the Lebanese government’s disassociation policy on Syria and the ongoing National Dialogue among rival Lebanese leaders sponsored by President Michel Sleiman.

The U.N. chief stressed the “importance of maintaining stability in south Lebanon,” according to the statement released by Mikati’s office. Ban also criticized the wave of violent protests that engulfed Arab and Muslims countries against a U.S.-produced film deemed offensive to Islam and the Prophet Mohammad. “The anti-Islam film certainly constituted an insult to religions but the violent reactions to the film were unjustified,” he said.

The Mikati-Ban meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, the Lebanese Ambassador in Washington Antoine Shadid and Lebanon’s representative at the United Nations Nawaf Salam.

The prime minister is currently in New York to head Lebanon’s delegation for the 67th General Assembly session. He was expected to deliver a speech at the General Assembly early Friday in which he will likely reiterate Lebanon’s dissociation policy toward developments in Syria and call on the international community to offer aid to tens of thousands of displaced Syrians who were forced to flee the fighting in their home country.

He met Thursday with the head of the Saudi delegation to the U.N. meetings, Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 28, 2012, on page 1.

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