BEIRUT: Syria will no longer accept attacks on its territory from across the border with Lebanon, Syria’s Ambassador Ali Abdel-Karim Ali said in remarks published Saturday and Prime Minister Najib Mikati reiterated his call for Lebanon to uphold its dissociation policy.
“What is required of the Lebanese government is that it carry out its duty on the border with Syria,” Ali told As-Safir newspaper.
“We have no interest whatsoever in creating tensions with Lebanon but at the same time we can never compromise on Syria's security and sovereignty. We are being attacked and we are no longer willing to accept that - ever,” he said.
Damascus, in a letter sent to the Foreign Ministry Thursday, warned Beirut it would attack Syrian rebels in Lebanon, reiterating its claims that arms and gunmen were being smuggled from the poorly delineated border.
The letter said Syrian forces were still exercising self-restraint by not striking “concentrations of armed gangs inside Lebanese territory in order to prevent them from crossing into Syrian territory.”
“But this will not last indefinitely,” the letter warned.
Syria has on several occasions responded to what it claimed were sources of fire coming from Lebanon which has resulted in civilian casualties as well as material damage.
Separately, Mikati told the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat in remarks published Saturday that he would try to seek clarification on the contents of the letter through diplomatic channels.
“We will get more clarification about the letter via diplomatic means,” the prime minister said.
“I urge the Lebanese to continue [upholding] the policy of disassociation,” he added.
The letter prompted March 14 figures to call for the deployment of peacekeeping forces to the 550-kilometer border to ameliorate tensions.
President Michel Sleiman, who is on an official tour of African states, said Friday night that the Lebanese should refrain from sending fighters to Syria.
“To overcome tensions surrounding Lebanon we should all be committed to the Baabda Declaration and not send gunmen to Syria or receive them. We should remain neutral,” Sleiman said during a ceremony at the Lebanese Embassy in Ivory Coast.
“The Lebanese Army has been commissioned to repress and arrest any gunmen [in Lebanon] to fight, whether they are with the opposition or not,” he added.
Earlier that day, Sleiman said: “The Syrian Foreign Ministry’s statement is being studied and we will take the appropriate stance on it. Lebanon has adopted a disassociation policy on the Syrian events. This position was translated into the Baabda Declaration."
“Lebanon, according to this [Baabda] Declaration, will not allow itself to serve as a crossing point for arms and gunmen across its border,” Sleiman said.
“It will not allow the establishment of military bases or security centers for gunmen on its territory,” he added.