Lebanon wants a quiet life: staying out of Syria's affairs
BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour reiterated Lebanon’s rejection of interference in the affairs of neighboring Syria during talks with President Bashar Assad Sunday.“Lebanon rejects attempts of foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs,” Mansour, who met Assad in Damascus, was quoted as saying by the Syrian Arab News Agency.
“The stability of Lebanon stems from the stability of Syria,” he said, adding that “what brings together [Lebanon and Syria] is more than relations between two neighboring countries but by virtue of their historical, cultural and sisterly relations.”
Assad, who said his government was committed to confronting “outlaws,” praised Lebanon’s position during last week’s U.N. Security Council meeting, which saw the Lebanese government disassociate itself from a statement condemning violence in Syria.
“The Syrian president praised the Lebanese government’s keenness on stability in Syria and hailed its position at the U.N. Security Council,” the Lebanese Embassy in Syria quoted Assad as telling Mansour.
Mansour, who discussed the promotion of Syria-Lebanese bilateral ties, expressed confidence in the Syrian government’s ability to restore security and stability following the implementation of promised reforms.
Mansour added that the restoration of stability in Syria would positively impact Lebanon and the promotion of said ties.
The meeting, attended by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali and Syrian presidential spokeswoman Bouthaina Shaaban, also tackled Lebanese affairs since the formation of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, according to SANA.
“Syria is on the path to reform … To deal with outlaws who cut off roads, seal towns and terrorize residents is a duty of the state which must defend security and protect the lives of civilians,” SANA quoted Assad as saying.
Earlier Sunday Mansour defended his government’s move to distance itself from last week’s U.N. Security Council statement condemning the violence in Syria, adding that the decision did not imply a confrontation with the international community.
“Lebanon’s position at the [U.N.] Security Council toward events in Syria stems from its convictions of the historic and [sisterly] relations [with Syria] and shared interests between the two countries,” Mansour told a Lebanese radio station. “The decision was a positive one because we cannot go along with a decision that condemns Syria or one that opposes it. Since independence, we, until today, have taken a positive policy toward [sisterly states], particularly Syria.”
Lebanese MPs and public figures have aired mixed reactions to the country’s stance at the Security Council. Opposition and human rights groups say over 1,700 civilians have been killed in a deadly crackdown launched by security forces in March, when the popular protests began. Damascus blames “terrorist gangs” for the civilian deaths and says the unrest in his country is part of a conspiracy.
While members of the March 8 alliance have defended Lebanon’s position, saying it was based on the Cabinet’s policy not to intervene in Syria’s internal affairs, member of the rival March 14 coalition in the opposition have described it as shameful, saying that the country has failed to voice support for human rights.
Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora described Lebanese government officials as “figures of a wax museum,” referring to the Cabinet’s implementation of Hezbollah’s and Syria’s agenda. “This is a government that resembles figures of a wax museum that looks bright, clean and cold but lacks a pulse of life,” Siniora told local delegations during an iftar in Sidon Saturday.
Referring to doubts on the country’s foreign policy, Mansour said: “When Lebanon chose to distance itself from the statement condemning Syria, it did not do any harm to either of the two countries and we did not go along with it because it dealt with condemning the Syrian regime.”
“Lebanon’s stance does not imply any confrontation with the international community,” he added.
Lebanese Ambassador to the U.N. Nawaf Salam met with President Michel Sleiman Saturday and discussed Lebanon’s rotating role as head of the U.N. Security Council in September.
The discussions tackled Lebanon’s position at the U.N. Security Council with regard to upcoming developments and the annual meeting of the U.N. general assembly.