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memri
October 31, 2009 No.
2598

'Al-Riyadh' Editor Retracts Call to Return Lebanon to Syria

After calling, on October 13 and 14, 2009, to return Lebanon to Syrian control, [1] Turki Al-Sudairi, editor-in-chief of the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh published an article retracting his statements and apologizing for them.

In an attempt to minimize the damage caused by Al-Sudairi's articles, the Saudi daily Al-Watan published an editorial and a column emphasizing Saudi Arabia's support of Lebanon and of its complete independence.

Following are excerpts from Al-Sudairi's article and from the Al-Watan editorial.

Al-Riyadh Editor: "I Was Wrong"

In an October 15, 2009, article titled "Yes, I Was Wrong in My Ideas and Statements," Al-Sudairi retracted his previous claims about Lebanon, saying: "Nothing is harder than acknowledging the magnitude of one's mistakes... If the mistaken ideas that I wrote about Lebanon [in my October 13 article] had appeared in an article by some other writer asking me to publish them in Al-Riyadh, reason has it that I would have refused to publish them. How did I arrive at this flawed perception of the situation in Lebanon?... It is not wrong to acknowledge an error when it occurs; rather, it is a virtue. I was wrong in my ideas and my statements, and I must apologize and make amends."

The article goes on to praise the Lebanese, saying that it is necessary to help them build their society and stabilize their country: "Mutual understanding on the local level is the first and last requirement of any people striving to distance itself from dissent. Lebanon perhaps needs [to reach such an understanding] more than any other country. It is a country of many virtues, and in order for these virtues to find expression in [Lebanon's] internal building [process], mutual understanding must prevail there. Thanks to the abilities and talents of the Lebanese, this [is a goal that] can be achieved..." [2]

Saudi Daily Al-Watan to the Lebanese: The Saudi Media Does Not Represent the Country's Official Positions

In an editorial, the Saudi daily Al-Watan stressed that Saudi Arabia supported Lebanon's independence and sovereignty and would not bargain over them. Addressing the Lebanese, the editorial stated: "You must understand that the new Saudi press is pluralistic and displays a wealth [of different opinions], so that it does not necessarily reflect [the country's] official policy. [The Saudi position] is expressed only by the [official] Saudi news agency. Rest assured that [Saudi Arabia] supports a free and independent Lebanon with full sovereignty over its lands and its destiny." [3]

Al-Watan editor Jamal Khashoggi wrote a column stating that Saudi Arabia has always stood by Lebanon, and that the Saudi-Syrian rapprochement is not at Lebanon's expense but is only meant to help Lebanon. He wrote: "During the Taif negotiations, which ended the Lebanese civil war, Saudi Arabia staunchly supported the call for a withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon... The Syrian withdrawal was long in coming, but everyone knows how it eventually came about and who firmly demanded it...

"Saudi King 'Abdallah's visit to Damascus [on October 7-8, 2009] was delayed only because of the Lebanese issue. The king demanded assurance that, like Saudi Arabia, our Syrian brothers were committed to refraining from interfering in Lebanon's affairs and to cooperating with Lebanon - and [the Syrians did indeed assure him of this].

"[In fact,] Saudi Arabia went even further by demanding that no non-Lebanese element set any conditions regarding the establishment of the next Lebanese government. [As for the question of] whether it is to be a national unity government or an ordinary majority government - that is for the Lebanese, and only the Lebanese, to decide.

"The warming in Saudi-Syrian relations will not, under any circumstances, be at the expense of Lebanon and its independence. [On the contrary], it will strengthen [Lebanon] and accelerate the establishment of the Lebanese government, based on Lebanese decisions, and the demarcation of its permanent borders with Syria." [4]

Endnotes:

[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2595, "Al-Riyadh Editor: 'Why Shouldn't Lebanon Return to Syria?'" October 14, 2009, 'Al-Riyadh' Editor: 'Why Shouldn't Lebanon Return to Syria?'.

[2] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), October 15, 2009.

[3] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), October 15, 2009.

[4] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), October 15, 2009.