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Kahwagi: Democracy and dialogue key to salvation

  • Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi inspects troops in Tripoli, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Army Website, HO)

BEIRUT: Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi said Wednesday that boosting dialogue among the country’s rival factions and spreading democracy were the key to rescuing Lebanon as it faces the threat of instability from the repercussions of the 21-month-old turmoil in neighboring Syria.

Speaking at a ceremony – sponsored by Kahwagi – to launch a book on the geopolitical, economic and security changes in the Middle East at the Central Military Club in Manara, he emphasized that amid the upheavals sweeping across the region, only dialogue alongside scientific and intellectual debates on major issues are the “springboard and means to the progress of our societies and their stability.”

“We in Lebanon are living in a region where the reverberations of the world economic crises are felt and which has been affected by the repercussions of the successive wars from Afghanistan to Iraq,” Kahwagi said.

Referring to the Arab Spring uprisings that have so far toppled autocratic governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, he added: “We are today feeling the reverberations of Arab revolutions and changes which have led to new regimes that are still trying to find their way to freedom, justice and stability.”

The Army chief’s speech touched on the consequences of the devastating 1975-90 Civil War for the country, as well as the ramifications of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian problem and the repeated Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

“We have realized after long suffering that there is no way to the salvation of our country except through the strengthening of the culture of dialogue and spreading democracy in it,” Kahwagi said.

“Perhaps this conclusion, in which we still believe, will help the Arab peoples to understand their needs and concentrate on their vital requirements in a region where ideas overlap, political and sectarian games multiply, fateful challenges and security and social problems thrive,” he added.

Unlike the role of the military in some Arab countries, Kahwagi stressed that the Lebanese Army was determined to preserve the country’s security and stability.

“If some regimes had given wrong impressions about the role of the military in the lives of Arab societies, we in Lebanon are keen on presenting a new symbolism for an army that is ready to meet challenges and confront anyone who seeks to tamper with the country’s security,” he said.

Kahwagi remarked that the Lebanese Army was also anxious to ensure freedom, justice and equality for the Lebanese.

“Military strategies cannot endure without respecting human rights and the right of peoples to decide their own fate and defend their sovereignty,” he added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 10, 2013, on page 3.
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