BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman expressed Thursday support for efforts to secure a political solution in Syria and defended Lebanon’s policy of dissociating itself from developments in the neighboring country. “We reiterate ... our hopes that the tireless efforts and [U.N.-Arab envoy] Kofi Annan reach an agreed political solution to the Syria crisis based on the core of the Arab [League] initiative which would allow for a cessation of all forms of hostilities, implementation of reforms and a transition to democracy sought by the Syrians that would restore Syria’s stability, position and role,” Sleiman said in speech at the opening of the Arab summit in Baghdad, Iraq.
Sleiman said Lebanon was monitoring the situation in Syria very closely and that Beirut was adopting a policy of dissociating itself from the yearlong turmoil next door in order to safeguard Lebanon’s “stability and national unity.”
In tandem with the Syria crisis, Sleiman said unrest in the Gulf was also of concern and threatened regional and international peace.
“This requires of us to take a unified stance and concerted efforts so that the language of reason and dialogue prevails, and the chances of the success of diplomatic efforts based on international law are boosted as well,” he added.
Sleiman, who was greeted at Baghdad airport earlier in the day by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, praised Iraq on its organization of the summit, which he said consecrated “Iraq’s regional and international position despite the delicate circumstances it is facing.”
The Lebanese president said the issue of Palestine should not be neglected amid the popular uprisings in the Arab world, the heightened tension in the Gulf and the growing face of “international terrorism.”
He called on Arab states to adopt a unified position on the matter of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“Let us work, whatever our concerns, on uniting ranks and combining our abilities. Let us devote enough time and efforts to create circumstances to put enough pressure to bring about a just and comprehensive solution to all the dimensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of international resolutions, to which we adhere, as well as the Madrid conference and the Arab [Middle East] peace bid,” he said.
Sleiman said developments in Arab countries that began in 2011 “revived the hope for a new dawn of freedom and democracy that would allow for peaceful transition and rotation of power.”
However, he said that “these events began to arise at the same time as concerns resulting from what can be seen in the transitional stage in a number of Arab countries in terms of scenes of fragmentation and division, as well as threats of a shift toward unilateralism and extremism.”
He called on Arab leaders at the summit to take advantage of the present circumstances, which he described as both risky but at the same time full of high hopes, to “lead our peoples in an informed manner toward their aspirations for reforms, development, freedom and democracy.”