BEIRUT: March 14 leaders including former Prime Minister Saad Hariri blasted Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour after he called for the reinstatement of Syria’s membership in the Arab League at a ministerial meeting of the body in Cairo Wednesday.
Hariri accused Mansour of acting as a mouthpiece for the Syrian regime. “The Syrian regime has found someone to speak on its behalf at the Arab League. Lebanon’s foreign minister has executed this dark mandate, which is incompatible with the fundamental basis of Arab solidarity, and erases all claims related to the policy of disassociation,” Hariri said in a statement.
“I call for Syria’s membership in the Arab League to be unblocked. Communication with Syria ... is essential for a political solution,” Mansour said following the meeting.
Hariri said Mansour’s request “summarizes the ugly role played by the Lebanese government in its approach to the bloody events in Syria.”
Although Mansour denied it took place, he reportedly engaged in an argument with his Qatari counterpart during Wednesday’s meeting in Cairo over who was responsible for the ongoing bloodshed in Syria.
The argument was sparked by Mansour’s criticism of the Arab League’s focus being placed on replacing the Syrian regime while the country’s stability continued to deteriorate.
“We have held meetings for over two years and have taken decision after decision. [We thought] that with these decisions we will be providing Syria with security and stability by removing the regime and replacing it with another, while Syria sank into blood and destruction,” Mansour said.
Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani hit back at Mansour and accused the Syrian president of being behind the bloodshed. “It was not the decisions of the Arab League that drowned Syria in a sea of blood. Bashar Assad is the one who killed his people and drowned Syria in a sea of blood,” bin Jassem was quoted as saying.
A day after the Cabinet was divided in its support of President Michel Sleiman’s decree to hold elections on time, Prime Minister Najib Mikati once again criticized Mansour for unilaterally taking a stance on behalf of the Lebanese government at the meeting. “The Lebanese government is still committed to the policy of disassociation from events in Syria. This is the same stance it took when the decision to suspend Syria’s membership was issued by the Arab League,” Mikati said, referring to the position the Cabinet took after the start of the Syria uprising.
Mikati added that Lebanon was still committed to its policy of disassociation from the developments in Syria.
In Cairo, Mansour requested the reinstatement of Syria as a member of the organization after Damascus’ membership was suspended last year due the regime’s refusal to implement the Arab League’s peace plan.
Mansour added that he opposed the Arab League’s decision to give a permanent seat to the Syrian National Coalition. “Syria is a state and a government. The idea that a state could be replaced by a political party is a very dangerous precedent in the world,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Mansour’s comments came under fire from opposition leaders in Lebanon who said that the foreign minister was no longer representing the country.
Separately, the general secretariat of the March 14 coalition described Mansour as “the charge d’affaires of the Syrian regime in Lebanon,” and warned that his behavior was becoming a “real danger” to the country and the region.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the coalition called for lifting Mansour’s diplomatic immunity and accused the minister of using his position to serve the Syrian regime’s aggressive policies.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea described Mansour’s comments as shameful and reiterated his call for the government to resign.
“We ask the president and the prime minister about the ongoing silence toward the [foreign] minister at the expense of every free Lebanese [citizen]. We reiterate our call for the government’s resignation,” Geagea said in a statement.