US, UK warn against escalating sectarianism in Lebanon

Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
Updated 07 August 2019

US, UK warn against escalating sectarianism in Lebanon

  • US supports a fair and transparent judicial review free of any political influence

BEIRUT: The US Embassy in Lebanon warned that “any attempt to exploit the tragic incident that took place in Kabreshmoun on June 30 to promote political objectives must be rejected.”

The statement comes during Lebanon’s escalating political crisis, which has been ongoing for more than two months. 

The crisis has peaked during the last 48 hours, where efforts aimed at reaching a political consensus on the judicial measures for the Kabreshmoun shooting have failed.

There was open confrontation between the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), with the PSP including the Lebanese President Michel Aoun and the judiciary in its accusations.

“The US supports a fair and transparent judicial review free of any political influence. We clearly expressed to the Lebanese authorities that they are expected to handle the incident in a manner that achieves justice without inciting sectarian and regional conflicts with political backgrounds,” said the US Embassy.

“Lebanon’s stability is a priority to us,” said Britain’s Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling as he visited Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. 

“We urge everyone to focus on economic development at this stage. The adoption of the state budget was an important first step but still needs a lot of work,” Rampling added.

The shooting took place when the head of the FPM, Gebran Bassil, visited the site of massacres between Christians and Druze during the civil war.

Supporters of the PSP staged protests to prevent the visit, triggering a shootout after the arrival of the minister of the displaced, Saleh Al-Gharib. Two of his bodyguards were killed.

Minister Al-Gharib is a member of the PSP’s rival party and an ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.

The incident received significant political and judicial attention, which has paralyzed the government for over a month. The PSP accused the FPM of wanting to eliminate it by pressuring the military judiciary to manipulate the investigation.

Aoun affirmed his “commitment to the judiciary, which has the authority to act firmly and punish according to the laws,” as he received a youth delegation on Wednesday.

Berri said that he “will not allow anything that could divide the Lebanese people,” and that “political, security and financial stability is required from everyone, as international financial institutions are concerned about Lebanon’s situation.

“A complete and comprehensive reconciliation is necessary to hold government sessions. There is no need for panic as it will vanish with the government’s first session.” 

An international report on Lebanon’s financial classification is expected to be issued on Aug. 23, with the Lebanese Central Bank Gov. Riad Salameh rejecting suggestions that the country is bankrupt.

Gulf countries reject US position on Israeli settlements, Arab League calls emergency meeting

Updated 2 min 59 sec ago

Gulf countries reject US position on Israeli settlements, Arab League calls emergency meeting

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it completely rejected Washington’s statement on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, state news agency SPA reported.
US President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday abandoned the position held by the United States for four decades that the settlements were “inconsistent with international law.” 
An official foreign ministry source expressed “the Kingdom’s utter rejection of the US government’s statements that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are legitimate and do not violate international law.”
The source added that Israel’s construction of the settlements is contrary to the resolutions of international legitimacy and international law, and stands as an obstacle to achieving peace and stability in the Middle East and a two-state solution.
The source said that achieving lasting peace requires the Palestinian people to obtain their full legitimate rights in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and the resolutions of international legitimacy.

The United Arab Emirates also stressed the need to abide by the resolutions of international legitimacy and the Arab Peace Initiative, which are relevant to the West Bank, including Security Council resolutions stating that Israeli settlements are illegal.
In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation called on the UN Security Council to abide by the Security Council resolutions stating that Israel should stop settlement activities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities toward providing international protection for the Palestinian people and confronting Israeli policies that violate international law.
Bahrain also reiterated its firm rejection of the Israeli settlements, “which is in violation of international law and resolutions of international legitimacy, especially Security Council Resolution 2334 issued in 2016 to stop settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories in 1967, including East Jerusalem.”
Bahrain’s foreign ministry said that the construction of settlements carries serious repercussions that would hinder efforts to reach a just and comprehensive peace in the region based on a two-state solution.
Meanwhile, the Arab League will hold an emergency meeting of foreign ministers on Monday to discuss Washington’s change of position, Egypt’s state news agency MENA said on Wednesday.