Beirut should ‘reject options dictated from abroad,’ says US envoy

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield speaks during his meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP)
Updated 05 March 2019

Beirut should ‘reject options dictated from abroad,’ says US envoy

  • Satterfield’s visit to Lebanon is expected to pave the way for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

BEIRUT: US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield said in Beirut that Lebanon should reject “options dictated from abroad,” stressing that the “US will do everything in its power to support Lebanon’s national options.”

Satterfield, who had been assigned the territorial and naval border dispute file between Lebanon and Israel on the Blue Line and in the exclusive economic zone, arrived in Beirut on Monday evening to brief the Lebanese officials on the results of the Warsaw Conference, which was held in mid-February and devoted to discuss “the impact of Iran and its terrorism in the region.”

Satterfield’s visit to Lebanon is expected to pave the way for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited the region in mid-January. He did not visit Lebanon at the time but his visit included Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan.

A source at the US Embassy did not confirm Pompeo’s visit. He told Arab News that he does not “rule out his visit to Lebanon.”

Satterfield said in brief statements after meeting a number of Lebanese officials, who did not include President Michel Aoun, that his country was “deeply committed to Lebanon and would like to see it move forward and face its options.”

He also said after meeting Lebanese Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, that“the US and other countries will deal with Lebanon according to the way in which Lebanon will adopt these options, which we hope will be positive for the benefit of Lebanon and its people, not for the benefit of foreign parties.”

“Lebanon now has a new government to take sensitive decisions related to the country’s economy, security and combating corruption,” he added.

The US official, accompanied by US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, visited Prime Minister Saad Hariri. During the meeting, they discussed “the latest developments, the general situation in Lebanon and the region and the bilateral relations between the two countries,” according to the media office of the prime minister.

After his meeting with MP Sami Gemayel, leader of the Lebanese Phalange Party, Satterfield said that his tour in Lebanon “comes after the formation of the government and in light of the changes in the region. There is a US desire to see real stability and security in Lebanon, and this depends on its national options, not on dictated options.”

“Lebanon has long suffered from conflicts and ideologies promoted from abroad,” he said.

“This situation must change and there must be serious decisions in this context. The parties in Lebanon are effective and there must be national action in this direction. The US will do everything in its power to support Lebanon’s national options.”


Turkish shelling kills 9 regime personnel in northwest Syria: monitor

Updated 2 min 2 sec ago

Turkish shelling kills 9 regime personnel in northwest Syria: monitor

  • UN says it was trying to double aid deliveries across a border crossing from Turkey from 50 to 100 trucks a day.
  • Idlib has seen hundreds of thousands of people flee the violence

BEIRUT: Turkish shelling Monday killed nine regime fighters in northwest Syria, where Ankara-backed rebels are fighting off advancing regime forces, a monitor said.
Syrian regime forces have since December clawed back parts of the last major opposition bastion of Idlib in violence that has displaced almost a million people.
Fighting raged on Monday, killing almost 100 fighters on both sides around the jihadist-dominated bastion, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
Those included 41 pro-regime fighters, as well as 53 jihadists and allied rebels.
Overall on Monday, the regime advanced rapidly in the south of the bastion, but lost the town of Nayrab along the M4 highway to Turkish-backed rebels in the southeast.
Turkish shelling in that area killed four regime fighters near Nayrab and another five near the town of Saraqeb to its east, the Britain-based Observatory said.
Opposition fighters had already broken back into Nayrab last week after the regime seized it at the start of the month, but then lost it again several hours later.
Saraqeb, which lies at the intersection of the M4 and another important highway the M5, has been under regime control since February 8.
Earlier Monday, Russian air strikes killed five civilians in the Jabal Al-Zawiya area in the south of the bastion, the Observatory said.
In fighting on the ground, regime forces seized 10 towns and villages south of the M4, which links the coastal regime stronghold of Latakia to government-held second city Aleppo, it said.
State news agency SANA, for its part, said “units of the Syrian army continued to progress in the south of Idlib” province.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the regime’s aim was to wrest back control of stretches of the M4 still under the control of jihadists and allied rebels.
That would require operations against the towns of Ariha and Jisr Al-Shughur, both along the M4.
Analysts expect a tough battle for Jisr Al-Shughur, held by the jihadist Turkistan Islamic Party whose fighters mainly hail from China’s Uighur Muslim minority.
They are allied to Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a group led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate which dominates the Idlib region.
Loyalist forces have already taken back control of the M5, which connects the capital with Aleppo.
They have also secured the region around the northern city, a major pre-war industrial hub.
Fighting in northwest Syria since December has forced some 900,000 people to flee their homes and shelters amid bitter cold.
The United Nations said Monday that the latest fighting was coming “dangerously close” to encampments of the displaced, risking an imminent “bloodbath.”
Mark Cutts, a UN humanitarian coordinator, also told reporters in Geneva that the world body was trying to double aid deliveries across a border crossing with Turkey from 50 to 100 trucks a day.
Syria’s war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.