“Protecting Lebanon and the Lebanese from external dangers also comes from the policy adopted by the president and the government, based on the respect of international conventions and resolutions, especially Resolution 1701,” Hariri told ministers during a Cabinet session he chaired at the Grand Serail. The session was devoted mainly to resuming discussions on the 2017 draft state budget.
“Our policy, in agreement with the president, is to establish a safety net based on these two principles and our openness toward the decision-making capitals in Europe, the United States, Russia, China and others,” Hariri said.
He added that Lebanon’s Arab and international relations and its respect for U.N. resolutions are used to restore confidence, which is the government’s slogan. “Lebanon needs the help of all its brothers and friends in the world to face crises, revitalize its economy and infrastructure, and launch new projects that provide work opportunities for the youth in particular,” he said.
The premier urged rival political parties to work with President Michel Aoun and the government to ensure that “Lebanon is protected against potential dangers.”
Lebanon has repeatedly announced its commitment to Resolution 1701, which ended Israel’s 34-day war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Among other things, the resolution called for an immediate end of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, the deployment of the Lebanese Army along the border with Israel, the establishment of a weapons-free zone south of the Litani River, and the disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.
Hariri’s remarks came three days after the United Nations urged Lebanon to continue discussions on a national defense strategy and to disarm all Lebanese and non-Lebanese factions in accordance with several U.N. resolutions, in a clear allusion to Hezbollah’s arsenal.
Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said in New York that Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701 “clearly call for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.”
Aoun caused an uproar last weekend after defending Hezbollah’s arms, saying they were essential in protecting Lebanon against a possible Israeli attack. Addressing the Cabinet session, Hariri also said that Lebanese unanimity and rallying behind the state and its institutions would protect Lebanon against external threats, while calling for maintaining excellent ties with Arab countries, especially with Saudi Arabia.
“Lebanon’s immunity is safeguarded by its excellent relations with the Arab world, particularly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which President Michel Aoun rightly said leads the confrontation against terrorism and extremism,” Hariri said. “We stress the need to preserve distinctive relations with brotherly countries, especially the Arab Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, which is hosting tens of thousands of Lebanese citizens and caring for their interests.”
Hariri’s statement came one day after Nasrallah delivered a speech in which he launched a vehement tirade against Saudi Arabia, reiterating his claims that the kingdom backed Daesh, an accusation Riyadh has long denied. Nasrallah for the first time in his speeches accused the United Arab Emirates, along with Israel, of participating in the “Saudi-American aggression” against Yemen.
Lebanon’s relations with Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf countries soured last February when Riyadh halted $4 billion in military grants and several Gulf states warned their citizens against traveling to Lebanon in protest at “hostile” policies linked to Hezbollah and Iran at Arab League and Islamic meetings.
Aoun this week visited Egypt and Jordan following trips last month to Saudi Arabia and Qatar as part of a drive to improve Lebanon’s ties with Arab countries. Aoun’s visit to Riyadh marked the restoration of normal relations with the kingdom. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia announced that it would lift its travel restrictions and appoint a new ambassador to Lebanon.
Nasrallah’s anti-Saudi diatribe drew a rebuke from the Future Movement and from Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea.
The Future Movement accused Nasrallah of undermining Lebanon’s ties with Arab countries through his verbal attacks on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. The movement said in a statement that Nasrallah’s tirade against Saudi Arabia and its leadership dealt “a strong slap” to Aoun’s recent Arab tour aimed at improving Lebanon’s ties with Arab countries.
“A sane person cannot but see in ... Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s insistence on sabotaging Lebanon’s Arab relations a link in a long Iranian chain to incite strife in the region’s societies,” the Future statement said.
Noting that all “brotherly” Arab countries, namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have never been negligent in defending Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, the statement said: “The Future Movement will never accept that the series of attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leadership to continue or go without response, especially since these repeated and deliberate harmful campaigns hit in the first place the [Aoun] era, which inaugurated its presidency by visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
For his part, Geagea said Nasrallah’s attacks on Saudi Arabia brought the thaw in Lebanon’s Arab ties back to square one. “Sayyed Nasrallah’s remarks undermine and obstruct the climate of a [political] breakthrough which the Lebanese have been promised,” Geagea told the Central News Agency.
“The country has entered since the election of President Michel Aoun a new stage calling for conciliation and setting aside anything that leads to escalation so that everyone can go to dealing with the citizens’ affairs away from the escalation of the explosive regional situation,” he said.
“Sayyed Nasrallah’s speech yesterday has undermined what has been achieved and brought the situation back to square one,” Geagea said.
He called on the government to discuss Nasrallah’s remarks and find a solution on the need to stop the campaign against Saudi Arabia. “It is unacceptable to continue to hold Lebanon hostage to the necessities of the regional confrontation,” Geagea said.
© Copyright The Daily Star 2017.