Lebanon News

Leaders maintain dissociation policy but urge aid to refugees

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Friday that Lebanon would maintain a disassociation policy toward Syria while extending aid to refugees. Sleiman said that distancing the country from regional conflicts has helped it avoid repercussions.

“Of course such detachment doesn’t apply to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or international resolutions or even to the help offered to Syrian refugees in Lebanon,” the president said in a statement issued by his office.

The president, who met with a number of visitors and EU officials at Baabda Palace Friday, said violence could not end the Syrian crisis, and expressed hope that the efforts exerted to end it would reach a breakthrough soon.

Sleiman also stressed the need to end Syrian shelling over Lebanese border towns, and all other breaches of Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Addressing the U.N General Assembly Thursday night in New York City, Mikati warned that the drawn-out crisis in Syria threatens civil peace in the Middle East and said the world must isolate Lebanon from it.

“The crisis in Syria threatens civil peace and stability in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, which requires the international community to exert great efforts to reach a political solution between the Syrian parties to stop the spiral of violence that claims hundreds of innocent victims every day,” Mikati said.

“It is the duty of the international community to neutralize Lebanon from the turbulent situation now and assist it to flourish and spread its [prosperity] throughout the Middle East,” he added.

He also called on “the world to look at Lebanon as a beacon of hope and a message of freedom and pluralism, and as a chance to secure the safest and shortest way for a democratic, healthy and prosperous Middle East.”

Mikati stressed that “Lebanon adheres to the disassociation policy, but not in terms of the humane duty toward Syrian refugees.”

He underscored Lebanon’s commitment to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 and called for more international pressure on Israel to withdraw its troops from the Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shuba Hills and the northern part of the border village of Ghajar.

Turning to the anti-Islam film that sparked violent protests across the region, Mikati said Lebanon denounces insults to any religion and stressed the need for building confidence through dialogue among cultures and civilizations.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mikati called for world recognition of the state of Palestine to “correct historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people.”

“There will be no stability in the region without a Palestine Spring,” he said, in reference to the Arab Spring – the wave of demonstrations and protests calling for democratic change in the Arab world.

He said the “Palestine Spring” would come when Palestinians gained their right to self-determination.

However, Mikati said, he believed the people of the Arab world are “eager for change through peaceful means and not through violence.”

He pointed out that “peace – coupled with freedom and justice – can provide security and stability to our world and put an end to tyranny, extremism, terrorism and hegemony.”

“The legitimate aspirations of the people can only [be achieved] through peaceful transition and dialogue away from the cycle of violence and foreign intervention,” he argued, before urging the international community to come up with an economic, cultural and developmental road map to help Middle East countries to cope with the change.

Lastly, Mikati called on the U.N. Security Council to “reconsider its structure and its powers.”

He said the Security Council should “expand to become more just and democratic as it takes into account the political and economic realities of the new world by increasing the number of its members and allowing small countries to participate in the membership.”

In remarks published Friday by pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, Mikati denied the presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon, saying he has received confirmation on the issue.

“There is no presence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon,” Mikati said, referring to remarks made by the top commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard in which he said that he had sent some members to Lebanon and Syria.

“We have received confirmations from all sides that the question posed to one of the security officials was about the past and that his talk focused on the presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in Syria, but he did not touch on their presence in Lebanon,” he added.

Mikati also voiced certainty that Hezbollah would not involve Lebanon in the Syria crisis, reiterating that the group agreed on the Baabda Declaration, which stipulates that Lebanon remains at a distance from regional and international conflicts particularly in neighboring Syria.

“I am certain that Hezbollah will commit to this declaration and will not allow Lebanon to be involved in any matter that does not concern it directly unless it is an attack on Lebanon,” the prime minister said.

“And we will not provoke Israel so that it will interfere in Lebanon’s matters,” Mikati added.

He also called for an honest Arab role to stop bloodshed in Syria, but “not an Arab intervention.” Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, called Tuesday during his speech to U.N. General Assembly for an Arab intervention force to be sent to Syria to end the violence in the country.

Separately, Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem accused the March 14 coalition of pulling Lebanon into the crisis in neighboring Syria by facilitating the flow of arms from Lebanon.

“March 14 is fully responsible for implicating Lebanon in the Syrian crisis by facilitating the flow of arms and providing refuge to rebels and obstructing the Lebanese Army’s role in the north and Bekaa,” Qassem said.

He added that March 14 was “wasting its time” by betting that change in Syria would lead to improving the coalition’s status in Lebanon.

“Developments in Syria will not be in the favor of the March 14 coalition. They will lose again, the same way they lost when they thought the Israelis and Americans would prevail in Lebanon,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 29, 2012, on page 2.




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