World calls on regional powers to stop interfering in Lebanon

Despite Lebanon’s dissociation policy Iran-backed Hezbollah has involved its troops in the Syrian war

15:41 December 8, 2017

Paris: In an effort to shore up Lebanon’s stability world powers on Friday called on regional powers to stop interfering in its politics and urged Hezbollah to rein in its regional activities.

The International Lebanon Support Group (GIS), a body that includes the five members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — were meeting in Paris on Friday to try to reinforce Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri’s hand to prevent a new escalation.

“For Lebanon to be protected from regional crises it’s essential that all Lebanese parties and regional actors respect the principle of non-interference,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at the opening of the meeting, which Hariri and US

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are also attending.

“The meeting today must show the will of international community to see the policy of regional disassociation put into place effectively by all in the country,” he said.

Macron had leveraged France’s close relations with both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia to secure a deal that saw Hariri travel to Paris and open the door to a resolution of the crisis last month.

Saudi concern over the influence wielded by Iran and Hezbollah in other Arab states had been widely seen as the root cause of the crisis, which raised fears for Lebanon’s economic and political stability.

The Lebanese policy of “dissociation” was declared in 2012 to keep the deeply divided state out of regional conflicts such as the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Despite the policy, Hezbollah is heavily involved there, sending thousands of fighters to help Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

“The keyword of the final declaration will be to support the disassociation policy,” a senior French diplomat said.

He said that while the diplomatic language for the final declaration would not single out any party, the message was that both Saudi Arabia and Iran should not influence Lebanese politics and that Hezbollah should rein in its regional activities.

“Friday’s meeting isn’t anti-Saudi or anti-Iranian, it’s pro-Lebanon,” he said.

Highlighting the difficulties of upholding such a policy, Hezbollah backed calls on Thursday for a new Palestinian uprising in reaction to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“The disassociation policy is driven by my government and adopted by all its political components and will allow us to maintain our national unity,” Hariri said alongside Macron.

“The stability of Lebanon may seem like a small miracle given the many conflicts that destabilise the region, but it is maintained at the cost of sacrifice, dialogue and compromise,” Hariri said.

Those attending Friday’s meeting backed efforts to strengthen the Lebanese army, set up an investment conference for Lebanon once legislative elections take place, support economic reforms and the country’s handling of millions of Syrian refugees.

The United States also voice support for Lebanon’s “sovereignty, stability and independence”.

Ahead of the meeting, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would affirm US support for Lebanon’s military and encourage other nations to do more to constrain Hezbollah and argue that doing so will lead to a “stronger, more stable Lebanon.”

Hariri tweeted after arriving in Paris that the meeting will be important for supporting Lebanon’s economy.

Lebanon plunged into crisis on November 4 when Hariri resigned as prime minister while he was in Saudi Arabia, saying he feared assassination and criticising Iran along with its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

After international pressure and negotiations between Lebanese political factions, he rescinded his resignation on Tuesday and his coalition government, which includes Hezbollah, reaffirmed a state policy of staying out of conflicts in Arab states.

Despite its pledge, it is unlikely Hezbollah will deliver on his its promise given its heavy military presence in Syria, where it has helped keep Bashar Al Assad’s government from being overthrown.