02/22/2021, 16.07
LEBANON
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Support for Card Al-Rahi’s call for an international conference is growing

by Fady Noun

The cardinal met with the Saudi ambassador, who returned to Lebanon after two months of absence. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is relegated to the margins of the negotiations. Doubts and uncertainties surround the investigation into the explosion at the port following the removal of Judge Sawan. An outside investigation is needed.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The call for a UN-sponsored international conference to get Lebanon out of its current constitutional crisis, issued by the head of the Maronite Church, Cardinal Beshara Al-Rahi last summer, is gaining traction at home and abroad.

It received indirect support from Saudi Arabia yesterday. Back in Lebanon after a noticeable absence of two months, seen by Lebanese political circles as a sign of Saudi “disinterestedness” of the fate of Lebanon, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Walid Boukhari, is actively working to renew talks with Lebanese political leaders, from which the Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, is still excluded for now.

At the Patriarchal See in Bkerké, which he visited last Friday, the Saudi ambassador renewed his country's support for Lebanon’s national unity, civil peace and the Taif Accords.

“The national and international community are paying attention to the views expressed by the Patriarch on national issues,” the ambassador said before stressing “the need for the proper application of the Taif agreement (1989) guaranteeing ‘national unity and civil peace in Lebanon’.”

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wants Lebanon to regain its former glory and its pioneering role,” Boukhari explained, “and will always remain the closest friend of the Lebanese people and their constitutional institutions.” The “country’s political memory is evidence that the Lebanese people never tire of fighting for the preservation of their living together in unity.”

Saudi Arabia has accused the prime minister-designate of complacency towards Hezbollah, and has joined the United States in demanding that this party be excluded from the new “mission government” demanded by President Emmanuel Macron, in exchange for structural economic aid to prevent the country’s economic collapse. Since late 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost 80 percent of its purchasing power.

For his part, the Patriarch assured the diplomat of his attachment to the Taif agreements and to internal peace, informed sources close to Bkerké said. What is more, his call for an international conference to resolve Lebanon’s crisis, under the aegis of the UN, is peaceful in nature.

In a recent homily, the head of the Maronite Church said that an international conference sponsored by the UN is now essential to “save” Lebanon and prevent it “from sinking into obscurantism and capitulating to transnational projects contrary to the essence of Lebanon,” a clear reference to extremist ideologies professed by certain Islamist groups.

The Patriarchate “has always endeavoured to give priority to civilised, political and diplomatic solutions, not military solutions,” cutting short any objection raised against the Patriarch’s initiative by Hezbollah or Islamist circles.

It is not known whether the two men discussed the proposal made last summer in the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion of 7,500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut, but some observers noted that one of the first diplomats Mr Boukhari met on his return to Lebanon was the French ambassador, Anne Grillo, and that there is talk of a tour of President Macron in the Gulf, in particular in Saudi Arabia.

Yesterday, the head of the Maronite Church also met with two opponents of President Michel Aoun's regime, Fares Souhaïd (Saydet el-Jabal rally) and Ahmad Fatfat (national initiative rally). The two men informed him of their intention to form a united front, and to go next week as a single delegation to the Patriarchal See to offer their support for his “cross-community” positions.

According to visitors to the Baabda Presidential Palace, the removal of the judge investigating the catastrophic explosion of August 4 at the port of Beirut, which killed 208 people with thousands wounded and homeless, is a further sign that Lebanese institutions are not working. This proves that an international conference is needed to get the country out of its existential crisis, just as was the case to end the civil war (1975- 1990), or the Israeli war of July 2006 thanks to Security Council resolution 1701.”

Card Al-Rahi on the removal of Judge Sawan

“The removal of Judge Sawan reinforces our call for cooperation with international investigators,” Cardinal Beshara Al-Rahi said in his Sunday homily yesterday, adding that, “The sole objective of an international conference is to enable the Lebanon to be reborn, to regain its vitality, its identity, its positive neutrality, its impartiality and its role as a stabilising factor in the region.”

“Moreover, isn’t the French initiative a form of internationalisation, asked some visitors to the Patriarchal See quoted in the press?” In fact, we are not moving towards a Constituent Assembly, but towards a reaffirmation of the two great constants of Lebanon: the Taif Agreement and respect for the current Constitution.

“The initiative of the head of the Maronite Church is in favour of Lebanese, Arab and international constitutional bodies, and does not seek to modify the regime or the Islamic-Christian partnership,” the visitors to Bkerké said.

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