Lebanese minister seeks negotiations with Assad over rebel factions amid turmoil in Arsal
Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun (File/AFP)
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Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun declared on Tuesday that he had long warned against the spread of the repercussions of the Syrian crisis to Lebanon, warning against holding negotiations with terrorists fighting the army in the northeastern town of Arsal.
He said after the Change and Reform bloc's weekly meeting: “I warn against carrying out negotiations with terrorists as we should negotiate with Damascus, not the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”
“Negotiating with Syria falls in the interests of all sides,” he remarked.
“Monitoring the border is the responsibility of Lebanon and Syria, based on past agreements between the two countries,” Aoun added.
“History will not be forgiving with any side that negotiates with terrorists,” he cautioned.
In addition, he described as “delusional” the demand that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon be deployed along the border with Syria and that U.N. Security Council resolution 1701 be expanded.
“Controlling the Lebanese-Syrian border is a joint responsibility and we hope that the latest developments will prompt officials to resolve the case of Syrian refugees,” Aoun suggested.
The army's sacrifices in Arsal have eliminated the “conditions that help harbor terrorists,” he added.
“The sacrifices have helped bring about the Lebanese people's national unity and now is the time for us to cast aside the errors of the past administration,” he continued.
“Now is not the time to hold officials of the previous administration responsible for their actions,” he said.
“We should no longer run away from our duties, but we must face the repercussions of the Syrian crisis,” he stated.
Commenting on March 14 camps claims that Hizbullah's fighting in Syria brought about ISIL's presence in Arsal, Aoun remarked: “MP Oqab Saqr was distributing aid to the Syrian people before the party became involved in Syria.”
At least 16 soldiers were killed and 22 others missing in clashes between the army and al-Nusra Front gunmen in Arsal.
The unrest broke out over the weekend after the arrest of a Syrian man accused of belonging to al-Qaida's Syrian branch al-Nusra Front.
Following his arrest, gunmen surrounded army posts before opening fire, sparking the clashes.
Arsal is majority Sunni Muslim and broadly sympathetic to the Sunni-dominated uprising next door against Syria's Bashar Assad.