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SYRIA - ARAB SUMMIT

Saudis call for 'positive move' from Syria on Lebanon

3 min

Saudi Arabia's foreign affairs minister took advantage of the Arab League Summit in Damascus on Saturday to press for Syria's support in the resolution of the Lebanese political crisis. (Report: O. Fairclough)

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Saudi Arabia called on Syria on Saturday to make a "positive move" towards resolving the political crisis in Lebanon as delegations gathered at an Arab summit in Damascus that Riyadh has snubbed.

A positive Syrian step would "complement the intense efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia and a number of Arab countries" to break the deadlock in Lebanon, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters in the Saudi capital.

"We hope ... the (Arab) summit will come up with a solution to the Lebanese crisis in keeping with the Arab League's initiative ... especially since the summit is being held in Damascus, from whom we continue to await a positive move on the Lebanese scene to implement the initiative," said Saud.

He was referring to an Arab League plan that provides for the election of Lebanese army chief General Michel Sleiman as president, and which he blames the Syrian-backed opposition in Beirut for derailing.

 

Lebanon and Syria turn up the heat

 

Recent statements by Syrian and Lebanese authorities provided further proof – if further proof was needed – of the general uneasiness gripping the Arab League, or indeed the Arab world, on the eve of the summit in Damascus. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak did not make the trip to the Syrian capital.

On Friday afternoon, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora sought to justify his country’s absence from the summit by pointing to “Syria’s repeated meddling in Lebanon’s internal affairs”. Siniora openly criticised Syria for “preventing the election of General Michel Sleiman, a consensual candidate, to the Lebanese presidency”. Indeed, since the retirement of Emile Lahoud last November, the country has been without a head of state.

The Lebanese premier called for an urgent meeting of Arab foreign affairs ministers to discuss the “deterioration in relations between Syria and Lebanon”. In reply, Syria’s foreign affairs secretary Walid al-Moallem said he would “not have time to listen to the message” Fouad Siniora is due to send to the summit. Indeed, Beirut announced last Wednesday it would not attend the summit, but would instead send a message to participants explaining its position on what it calls a Syrian effort to paralyse Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Syria’s foreign affairs minister deplored the fact that Nicolas Sarkozy had added “his voice to those who demand a boycott of the Arab summit, thereby meddling with Arab internal affairs”.

Indeed, during his state visit to London this week, the French president approved the decision by Egypt and Saudi Arabia to send lower-ranking delegations to Damascus to protest against Syrian interference in Lebanon.

 

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