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Doha summit pledges support for Lebanon’s unity, stability
Sleiman meets with Abdel-Aziz in Doha.
Sleiman meets with Abdel-Aziz in Doha.
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BEIRUT: Arab leaders meeting Tuesday in Qatar expressed solidarity with Lebanon, promising political and economic support for its government to help it maintain the country’s national unity, security, stability and sovereignty over all its territories.

The leaders praised the Lebanese Army’s role in asserting state sovereignty in the south and safeguarding stability and civil peace, according to a final statement issued at the end of a one-day summit chaired in Doha by Qatari’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

The Arab League summit underlined the need for bolstering the capabilities of the Lebanese Army and security forces to enable them to carry out their security missions.

However, it was not immediately clear whether the leaders would provide military or financial assistance to shore up the Army’s military capabilities.

The summit also voiced its support for “the right of Lebanon’s government, people and resistance to liberate and recover the Shebaa Farms and the village of Ghajar, [areas occupied by Israel], and defend Lebanon against any [Israeli] aggression by all available means.”

Meanwhile, Lebanon employed its policy of disassociation toward the crisis in neighboring Syria during the Doha summit and urged members of the Arab League to shoulder responsibility in protecting its stability.

Addressing the summit, President Michel Sleiman urged both local parties and regional powers to help implement the Baabda Declaration, which calls for distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts, particularly the 2-year-old bloody conflict in Syria.

“Out of fear of the Lebanese being plunged into strife and violence as a result of the ongoing fighting in Syrian territories, the parties to the Lebanese National Dialogue Committee agreed on the so-called Baabda Declaration on June 11 last year to spare Lebanon the potential negative repercussions of the Syrian crisis by distancing it from regional and international conflicts and [regional] axis policies,” Sleiman said in his speech.

“On this basis, we disassociate ourselves from the [summit] decision pertaining to Syria,” he added.

Sleiman was apparently referring to the Arab summit’s decision to give Syria’s Arab League seat to Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, leader of the Syrian National Coalition, and also to allow member states to offer military assistance to Syrian rebels.

Sleiman told the leaders that Lebanon’s policy of neutrality toward the Syrian crisis needed to be strengthened with their help, citing the failure of Lebanese sides to abide by the Baabda Declaration.

“Nine months since the adoption of the Baabda Declaration, there is a pressing need to bolster it internally and regionally in light of opposing [domestic] sides having failed to abide by its provisions, which called for keeping [Lebanon] away [from regional developments] and preventing Lebanon from being used as a sanctuary, conduit or base for smuggling of weapons and fighters to Syria,” he said.

“But this also requires that the Syrian opposition sides in turn cease using Lebanon and its territories for military operations,” Sleiman added.

He said Lebanon and other Arab countries had the duty of ensuring adherence to the Baabda Declaration and preserving the country’s stability.

“The responsibility of abiding to the Baabda Declaration, maintaining the stability of Lebanon, its unity and civil peace is Lebanon’s responsibility first and foremost,” Sleiman said. “But from the standpoint of sisterly [relations] and solidarity, it is a joint Lebanese-Arab responsibility.”

Sleiman also said Lebanon’s foreign policy aimed at preserving the best of the ties with Arab states.

“Despite the freedom of expression in Lebanon, within the limits of the law, it is certain that the policy of the Lebanese state, represented by its president here, is one of keenness of preserving the best of ties with sisterly Arab states on the basis of ties and solidarity and a rejection of interference in their internal affairs,” he said.

Sleiman met on the sidelines of the summit separately with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdel-Aziz, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Jordan’s King Abdullah, in addition to heads of governments and foreign ministers.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 27, 2013, on page 3.
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