04/15/2021, 13.55
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Patriarch Raï invokes Paris and Washington accord to unblock Lebanese crisis

by Fady Noun

Cardinal speaks with French diplomatic press, reiterating his appeal to neutrality and a UN sponsored international conference. Diverging visions of the Elysée and the White House on Hezbollah. The issue of Syrian refugees and the demographic element as an essential factor in a delicate balance.


Beirut (AsiaNews) - The Maronite patriarch, Card. Beshara Raï yesterday held a Zoom press conference with a dozen transalpine journalists belonging to the French Diplomatic Press Association (APDF).

In the course of the conference he returned to his request for a statute of neutrality for Lebanon and an international conference under the aegis of the UN, focused on the Lebanese problem.

Although added nothing new to the issues under discussion, the patriarch provided some clarifications in the answers to the questions posed that allowed for a better understanding of the scope of his campaign. In particular, he said he wanted the United States to align their positions with those of France on a possible solution to the Lebanon question.

On the domestic front, questioned about the responsibility that rests with the head of state in blocking the process for the formation of the government, the patriarch said that it is exclusively attributable to the president but the latter, due to his responsibilities, must "take charge of all the power afforded him by his office".

On the external level he said an international conference is desirable to the extent that a concertation between regional and international sponsors of local political forces can be imposed. Some of these want a settling of scores, while others, like Iran, want to maintain a status quo.

However, the head of the Maronite Church spoke out for the request to "internationalize" the crisis. “We never spoke about internationalization - he specified - but about an international conference”.

Hezbollah's role in the bloc

"Everyone knows that it plays a leading role in the bloc," he said in response to a question about Hezbollah, while assuring that the Patriarchal See "does not want to create a problem" with this party.

Referring to the Taëf agreement, especially as regards the disarmament of the militias, as indicated by the international resolutions 1559 and 1701, the patriarch confirmed that there is an international component to the Lebanese crisis, adding in this regard: "The Taëf agreement has not been applied on paper and in spirit”.

The head of the Maronite Church has revealed that he has repeatedly invited Hezbollah to frank and open discussions in Bkerké, but that at the moment the pro-Iranian party has not taken up the invitation. And with reference to the bipartite committee for dialogue between Bkerké and Hezbollah, composed of a lay person and a bishop (NDLR), respectively Harès Chéhab and Msgr. Samir Mazloum, the patriarch specified that these meetings with Hezbollah representatives "are friendly meetings not intended to go into depth on the issues".

Aware of the diversity of views and positions between France and the United States regarding Hezbollah, the head of the Maronite Church nevertheless hoped that these two countries could unite their wills with regard to Lebanon. "I will be meeting David Hale tomorrow (April 15)," he said, hoping that "these positions can come together and unite for the good of Lebanon."

On the presence in Lebanon of Syrian and Palestinian refugees and on a possible impact on the naturalization of some of the latter, Card. Beshara Raï was direct: "The political system of Lebanon rests on demography - he added - and the demographic balance between Christians and Muslims is important to the extent that Lebanon was created by a culture of encounter of Christian inspiration".

“It is not a question of numbers - he clarified - but of culture. By losing it, we lose everything”.

And as regards, specifically, Syrian refugees, he did not hide his fear of "a repetition of the Palestinian model", adding in conclusion that their return to Syria must not be strictly linked to a political resolution of the Syrian crisis.

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Lebanese Church invokes a people’s government to overcome 'existential crisis'
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Eastern Catholic Churches join Patriarch Raï and invoke international conference on Lebanon
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