March 30, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 6851

Letter By Five Former Lebanese Presidents, PMs To Arab League Summit Conveys Opposition To Hizbullah's Weapons And Involvement In Syria, Iran's Involvement In Arab World

March 30, 2017
Iran, Lebanon, Syria | Special Dispatch No. 6851

Ahead of the March 29, 2017 Arab League summit in Jordan, five former Lebanese presidents and prime ministers – Amine Gemayel, Michel Suleiman, Najib Mikati, Fuad Al-Siniora and Tammam Salam – sent a letter to Jordan's King 'Abdallah, who chaired the summit, and to the other Arab leaders who attended it.

In the letter, which was published March 28, 2017 in the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, the five set out the principles which they believe should inform Lebanon's domestic and foreign policy, including: avoiding affiliation with various regional and international axes and involvement in the Syrian crisis; condemnation of any outside interference in Arab affairs; commitment to Arab League and UN resolutions, especially UN Security Council Resolution 1701; upholding the exclusive authority of the Lebanese state and its security apparatuses to wield arms and opposing illegal arms; and upholding the exclusive sovereignty of the Lebanese state over all Lebanese territories.

These principles implicitly express the five figures' opposition to Hizbullah's possession of weapons, its control of various parts of Lebanon and its involvement in Syria, as well as their rejection of Iran's involvement in Arab affairs. Drafted and sent without coordinating with Lebanese President Michel 'Aoun, who represented Lebanon at the summit along with Prime Minister Sa'd Al-Hariri, the letter reflects the dispute within Lebanon between Hizbullah's supporters and opponents regarding this organization's weapons and its fighting in Syria, and regarding Iran's interference in the Arab world. It also appears to convey the signatories' opposition to the statements recently made by 'Aoun in support of Hizbullah's weapons, statements that sparked criticism from the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag.[1]

The letter came against the backdrop of tense anticipation in Lebanon ahead of Aoun's speech at the summit and regarding the position Lebanon would take on the intention to condemn Iran for its interference in Arab affairs. This, especially after Lebanon's failure to condemn Iran at previous Arab and Islamic forums sparked anger from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and even led to a disconnect between the countries and to the taking of economic measures against Lebanon.[2]

It should be noted that the letter triggered harsh condemnations against its signatories from Hizbullah's supporters in Lebanon.

The letter's signatories (right to left): former presidents Michel Suleiman and Amine Gemayel; former prime ministers Najib Mikati, Tammam Salam and Fuad Al-Siniora (image: Al-Nahar, Lebanon)

The following is a translation of the letter:[3]

"To His Majesty King 'Abdallah bin Al-Hussein, monarch of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and chair of the Arab summit.

"In light of the dangers threatening our homeland Lebanon and our Arab ummah, we, former presidents and prime ministers of Lebanon, saw fit to present you with an appeal to the Arab leaders who are to attend the summit in Jordan several days from now, clarifying our position on the situation in Lebanon and the region, on the dangers facing Lebanon, and on the need to confront [these dangers]. Therefore, we emphasize [that Lebanon must adhere to the following principles]:

"1. Complete commitment to the Taif Agreement and to the full implementation of all its clauses, as well as to the [Lebanese] constitution and to coexistence among all Lebanese – for these are the principles that safeguard Lebanon and the relations among the Lebanese.

"2. Lebanese commitment to its Arab affiliation, to the Arab consensus, and to the resolutions of the Arab League and of the legitimate international [bodies] regarding Lebanon and the Arabs – first and foremost [UN] Resolution 1701 that guarantees Lebanon's security vis-à-vis Israel and upholds its right [to regain] its territories that remain under Israeli occupation.

"3. Commitment to the 2011 [sic] Ba'abda Declaration,[4] which pronounced Lebanon neutral vis-a-vis the policies of [regional] axes and regional and international crises, in order to spare it the negative consequences of regional tensions and crises and safeguard its supreme interests, its national unity and the security of its citizens. This, with the exception of [Lebanon's] commitment to international resolutions and to the Arab consensus, as well as to the just Palestinian cause, including the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their lands and their homes rather than be naturalized [in Lebanon]; [as well as] commitment to refrain from interfering in the Syria crisis and to condemn foreign interference in the affairs of Lebanon and [other] Arab [countries].

"4. The Arabs must show solidarity with Lebanon [in the following matters]: the liberation of its lands [the Shab'a Farms, held by Israel]; the rejection of illegal arms [i.e., Hizbullah's arms]; and the need for the Lebanese state and its military and security apparatuses to exercise sole control over all Lebanese territory, as entailed by [the principles of] sovereignty, rule of law, and legitimacy. [The Arabs] must also support Lebanon so it can meet the challenges [posed by] the crisis of the Syrian refugees [living] in Lebanon and extend it political and material assistance until the [refugees] return to their homes.

"5. We, the undersigned, believe that the security and unity of Lebanon are based upon several foundations, chiefly support for a [Lebanese] state that exercises full and exclusive control over all Lebanese territories; rejection of illegal arms; opposition to all forms of terror; and respect for the Arab and international legitimacy [i.e., resolutions] and the principles of coexistence. We fervently hope that, in the present circumstances, the Arab League summit in Amman will address the urgent problems of the ummah and especially of the Mashraq countries [the Arab countries in the eastern Mediterranean basin]. We also expect [this] convention of the Arab leaders to open up a broad new horizon for solidarity with Lebanon in light of the threats it faces from within and without."



[1] On 'Aoun's statements and Kaag's criticism, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6783, Lebanese Daily 'Al-Akhbar' Attacks UN Special Coordinator For Lebanon Over Opposition To Hizbullah Weapons, February 14, 2017.

[2] On this crisis between Lebanon and the Gulf states, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1232, Lebanon's Failure To Support Saudi Arabia In Struggle With Iran Sparks Crisis Between Lebanon And Saudi-Led Gulf, March 7, 2016.

[3] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), March 28, 2017.

[4] A declaration issued in 2012 by the major political forces in Lebanon, including Hizbullah, in which they agreed, inter alia, that Lebanon would avoid affiliation with any regional axis and involvement in any regional conflict. The declaration was initiated by then-president Michel Suleiman in light of the Syria crisis and the dispute in Lebanon regarding the position it must take on this crisis.

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