BEIRUT: Lebanon employed its policy of disassociation toward the crisis in neighboring Syria during an Arab League summit in Qatar Tuesday and urged members of the top regional organization to shoulder responsibility in ensuring Lebanon’s stability.
“Out of concern of the Lebanese being plunged into violence and strife over the recurring violence in Syria, the National Dialogue Committee agreed on the ‘Baabda Declaration’ ... to distance Lebanon from potential negative repercussions of the Syria crisis and distancing it from regional and international conflicts and [regional] axis policies,” President Michel Sleiman told heads of Arab states in Doha.
“On this basis, we disassociate ourselves from this decision pertaining to Syria,” Sleiman added.
He also told the Arab leaders that Lebanon’s policy of neutrality toward the Syria crisis needed to be strengthened with their help, citing the failure of Lebanese sides to abide by the “Baabda Declaration.”
“Nine months since the adoption of the ‘Baabda Declaration,’ there is a pressing need to bolster it internally and regionally in light of opposing [domestic] sides having failed to abide by its provisions, which called for keeping [Lebanon] distant [from regional developments] and preventing Lebanon being used as a sanctuary, conduit or base for smuggling of weapons and fighters to Syria,” he said.
“But this also requires that the opposing Syrian sides in turn cease using Lebanon and its territories for military operations,” he added.
The president said Lebanon and other Arab countries had the duty of ensuring adherence to the “Baabda Declaration” and preserving Lebanon’s stability.
“The responsibility of abiding to the Baabda Declaration, maintaining the stability of Lebanon, its unity and civil peace is Lebanon’s responsibility first and foremost,” he said. “But from the standpoint of sisterly [relations] and solidarity, it is a joint Lebanese-Arab responsibility,” he added.
Sleiman also said Lebanon’s foreign policy aimed at preserving the best of the ties with Arab states.
“Despite the freedom of expression in Lebanon, within the limits of the law, it is certain that the policy of the Lebanese state, represented by its president here, is one of keenness of preserving the best of ties with sisterly Arab states on the basis of [sisterly] ties and solidarity and a rejection of interference in their internal affairs,” he said.
He also highlighted the growing influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“The problem of the Syrian refugees is beginning to represent an additional burden on the situation in the country, and their numbers have risen to what is approaching a fourth of Lebanon’s population,” he said.