Lebanon government still working on ministerial statement

While members of the ministerial statement committee are debating the Baabda Declaration and issues relating to the resistance, the International Support Group for Lebanon has issued a draft “international ministerial statement.”

al-monitor Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk (C) talks to journalists while Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil (2nd L) listens as they inspect the site of an explosion near the southern suburbs of Beirut, Feb. 19, 2014.  Photo by REUTERS/Hussam Shebaro.

Topics covered

sectarian politics, resistance, michel suleiman, michel aoun, lebanon, government formation, government, cabinet

Feb 27, 2014

While members of the Lebanese ministerial statement committee were busy debating the inclusion of “the resistance” in the statement, Israel helped, in its own way, in settling this issue, namely through the airstrike carried out by its warplane along the Lebanese-Syrian border [on Feb. 24]. As a result, the debate about the usefulness and necessity of the resistance needed no further justification.

As members of the committee were busy with the debate about the Baabda Declaration, the International Support Group for Lebanon, which is scheduled to meet in Paris on March 5-6, was formulating from abroad a sort of “international ministerial statement” for the government of Prime Minister Tammam Salam. The group referred to the proposals included in the closing draft statement of its meeting, which insisted on the “need to adhere to the Baabda Declaration and the disassociation policy.”

President Michel Suleiman was the first to grab onto and express this idea, as he asked that the Baabda Declaration be clearly included in the ministerial statement, and asked to expedite its drafting and adoption in the government before March 5.

According to As-Safir’s correspondent in Paris, Mohammed Ballout, French officials have prepared — in coordination with the United Nations, their European allies and the Lebanese presidency — a draft statement to be issued following the Paris meeting.

The statement includes the following points:

First, the participants have emphasized the continuous need for strong and coordinated international support for Lebanon in order to help the country endure the many challenges related to its security and stability.

The participants noted that the UN's commitment to preserve Lebanon's stability was at the heart of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, adopted in 2006, as well as other relevant resolutions.

Second, the participants warmly welcomed the announcement of the formation of a new inclusive Lebanese government on Feb. 15, 2014. They reaffirmed their willingness to work closely with Prime Minister Salam, and reiterated their support for Lebanon in the coming phase.

The participants have also emphasized the absolute necessity for the Lebanese government to be able to effectively address the urgent challenges facing Lebanon without delay.

The participants stressed the need to keep all parties in Lebanon united to ensure the survival of state institutions.

The participants stressed the critical importance of holding the Lebanese presidential elections on time and in their constitutional framework in order to establish confidence and stability in the country.

They also stressed the need to take steps to ensure the upcoming parliamentary elections were held on time.

Third, the participants thanked Suleiman for the leadership that he showed to preserve Lebanon's sovereignty, unity and stability and the continued operation of its institutions. They also thanked him for his quest to promote dialogue and to protect Lebanon from the repercussions of the conflict in Syria.

The participants stressed the importance of the continued commitment of all Lebanese parties to the Baabda Declaration and the disassociation policy.

Fourth, the participants agreed to condemn the repeated terrorist bombings in Lebanon and stressed the importance of bringing those responsible to trial. The participants reiterated that there should be no impunity in Lebanon, and pointed out that the sessions of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon started on Jan. 16, 2014.

Fifth, the participants voiced their concern about the ongoing challenges to the security and stability of Lebanon deriving from the conflict in Syria. They also welcomed the progress made in the efforts to mobilize more support for Lebanon's sovereignty and its institutions, and to highlight and strengthen efforts to support Lebanon in areas most affected by the Syrian crisis, including support for the Lebanese armed forces. They called for assistance to the refugees and the communities most affected by the crisis, as well as for financial and regulatory support for the Lebanese government.

Sixth, the participants focused on the pivotal role played by the Lebanese armed forces in terms of addressing the increasing security threats in the country, which stem from the Syrian crisis and the spread of terrorism, as well as in terms of work with UNIFIL to ensure calm along the Israeli border.

The participants acknowledged the important role played by UNIFIL in preventing escalation and moving forward with Resolution 1701. They also praised the commitment shown by the participating countries in UNIFIL toward Lebanon.

The participants welcomed the support of the Lebanese armed forces as part of its plan to develop its capabilities within five years. They also welcomed the generous assistance offer provided by Saudi Arabia.

The participants focused on the increasing challenges faced by the Lebanese armed forces and the continuing need to strengthen their capacity.

The participants noted the launch of a coordination mechanism on Feb. 20 to support the current plan designed to enhance the capabilities of the Lebanese armed forces within five years. The participants look forward to the conference aimed at supporting the Lebanese armed forces, which the Italian government intends to host in Rome, and which will provide another collective opportunity to promote international support.

Seventh, the participants tackled the burden of the conflict in Syria that is weighing down on Lebanon and the need for greater burden-sharing. They praised Lebanon’s generosity as it hosted more than one million Syrian refugees. They also noted the generous pledges announced on Jan. 15, 2014, at the International Donor Conference in Kuwait and stressed the need to expedite securing them and guaranteeing additional assistance in line with the regional response plan.

The participants also encouraged the Lebanese government to closely cooperate with the UN and other partners to address the humanitarian needs of the refugees in Lebanon. The UN and its partners are committed to closely working with the government. This includes strengthening Lebanon’s capacities, in terms of managing affairs related to refugees, supporting them and establishing emergency measures to welcome them. They also welcomed the continued efforts to expand humanitarian and rehabilitation programs for the Syrian refugees, and encouraged the international community to consider additional assistance in this regard.

Eighth, the participants reiterated their concern about the negative impact of the Syrian conflict on key sectors in Lebanon, including health, education and infrastructure. They emphasized the importance of the road map on stability, prepared by the government in collaboration with the World Bank and the UN, which set the priorities to mitigate the impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon.

They encouraged the Lebanese government and its partners to move forward to implement the road map and to take all the necessary measures to facilitate the distribution of the available aid. They drew attention to the support that has been secured to government projects and host communities in a way that goes in line with the road map. They also encouraged further support through the various channels, including the Lebanon Recovery Fund, and expressed their gratitude to the governments of Norway and France, and to the World Bank, for their contributions in the funding, and welcomed the Lebanese authorities’ intentions to adopt government measures to facilitate the acceleration of spending.

Ninth, the participants welcomed the possibility of holding future meetings with a wider participation, and expected to hold meetings at different levels, as necessary.

The process of drafting the statement

While the ministerial statement committee failed to reach the expected consensual formula during the fifth meeting that was held yesterday [Feb. 25], Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told his visitors that immediately after the adoption of a draft statement, he will take the initiative of distributing it to the members of the parliament. He also said that he will schedule a parliamentary session to discuss it 48 hours after its adoption, in accordance with parliamentary rules of procedure. He noted that if the ministerial statement is formulated today, he will convene a session at the end of the week, even it has to be on Sunday.

Gen. Michel Aoun told As-Safir that Lebanon must hurry to agree on a ministerial statement, so that the government can start working to establish the appropriate atmosphere for the presidential elections. He warned against the consequences of the delay, because there are signs indicating that international tension will return in more than one place, which could be negatively reflected on Lebanon. Therefore, we must seize the opportunity that allowed the government to be formed and build upon it before it is too late.

He added that when a sniper shoots, people rush to cross the street to avoid being hit. We are currently facing a similar scenario, where we have to rush toward a settlement to avoid being injured by regional and international bullets.

In addition, sources within the ministerial statement committee told As-Safir that the debate during the meeting yesterday [Feb. 25] was serious and calm. The sources were expecting the statement would be formulated this week.

According to the same sources, insisting on including the Baabda Declaration in the ministerial statement is countered by insisting on adding the “army, people and resistance” formula. Therefore any settlements require abandoning the two demands, provided that emphasis is placed on the disassociation policy and the adoption of the national dialogue decisions. This means to implicitly refer to the Baabda Declaration, and affirm the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese people to the resistance, without attaching it to the army and the people.

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