US conveys support for Lebanon’s stability

President Aoun holds talks with US Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker in Beirut. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs Joel Rayburn was also present. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2019

US conveys support for Lebanon’s stability

  • Aoun expressed concern that the issue of Syrian refugees might be exploited politically rather than dealt with from a humanitarian point of view

BEIRUT:  Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun on Tuesday urged the US to help find a solution to a maritime border dispute with Israel, as Beirut aims to begin offshore oil and gas exploration.
Aoun made the request during talks with David Schenker, the US assistant secretary of state for the region, who is on a two-day visit to Lebanon as part of a regional tour.
Schenker recently replaced David Satterfield, who had shuffled between Lebanon and Israel in attempts to reach a settlement. “Lebanon hopes the US will continue its mediation efforts ... where things stopped with envoy David Satterfield,” Aoun said.
Aoun said Israel “continues its aggression against Lebanese sovereignty by land, air and sea, knowing that any escalation will bring down the stability that has been experienced in the border region since the July 2006 war.”
Schenker said the US was ready to “renew efforts toward the demarcation of land and sea borders in south Lebanon,” and was keen to strengthen bilateral relations, especially in terms of supporting the Lebanese military and security forces.
Schenker arrived in Beirut on Monday evening for his first visit to Lebanon as part of a tour of the region.
The US Embassy in Lebanon said his tour also includes Iraq, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and aims to “underscore the importance of bilateral relations and the deep commitment of the US to continue to work with its partners and allies to achieve stability in the Middle East and North Africa.”
In his meeting with Aoun, Schenker was joined by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs Joel Rayburn.

Aoun told Schenker Lebanon was proceeding with the return of Syrian refugees to their country, and that 352,000 had done so voluntarily, without problems in Syria.
 

HIGHLIGHTS

• Top US official says Washington is keen to strengthen bilateral relations, especially in terms of supporting the Lebanese military and security forces.

• President Michel Aoun expresses hope that the US will resume its mediation to demarcate land and sea borders in southern Lebanon.

Aoun urged the US to help in this regard, saying his country “can no longer bear more after the increasing number of refugees has resulted in negative repercussions on all Lebanese sectors.”
He reiterated his call for UN organizations and other humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to refugees in Syria as this will encourage them to return.
Aoun expressed concern that the issue of Syrian refugees might be exploited politically rather than dealt with from a humanitarian point of view. He thanked the US for its assistance to Lebanon in general, and the army in particular.
Schenker visited Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who said: “Lebanon ratified financial laws that make it conform to the highest international standards in the fight against financial trafficking and money laundering.”
Berri added: “Lebanon is keen to maintain stability, avoid getting dragged into war and abide by international resolutions. The Israeli enemy is responsible for … undermining the stability that has existed since 2006.”
His press office said he and Schenker discussed maritime borders. The latter’s first meeting in Beirut was with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Schenker also met with army officials.


Fatah and Hamas blame each other for reconciliation failure

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
Updated 7 min 32 sec ago

Fatah and Hamas blame each other for reconciliation failure

  • Sources said Fatah wanted to exclude three factions — the Liberation Movement, the Mujahideen Movement and the Popular Resistance Committees — whereas Hamas wanted them to participate because of their loyalty

GAZA CITY: Fatah and Hamas have blamed each other for their lack of reconciliation following the release of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.
The Trump peace plan, supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calls for the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state that excludes Jewish settlements built in occupied territory and is under near-total Israeli security control. It also proposes US recognition of Israeli settlements on occupied West Bank land and of Jerusalem as Israel’s indivisible capital, along with Israeli annexation of the Jordan valley.
It has been trashed by the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation as well as the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on all factions to unite and develop a common strategy to counter the peace deal and there were hopes he would send a PLO team to Gaza to reconcile with his political rivals at Hamas, ending 13 years of internal division. But the meeting has yet to materialize, with each side accusing the other of obstruction and exclusion.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip by force from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in 2007, with the takeover leaving Palestinians divided between two governments. Hamas controls Gaza and the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority governs autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The two sides remain bitter enemies.
The PLO’s Saeb Erekat, who is executive committee secretary, said the organization’s factions were ready to go to the Gaza Strip. “It is Hamas that is delaying the visit, by refusing to invite the factions to hold a meeting that includes all the factions in Gaza,” he told Arab News. “We do not see any reason for Hamas to delay issuing invitations to the Palestinian factions to respond to what was agreed upon in holding a factional meeting in Gaza, until a reconciliation agreement is reached and ending
the division.”
Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of the Fatah central committee, said the group was not waiting for the approval of any party to go. It was waiting for an official date from Hamas in order to hold the factional meeting in Gaza.
In 2017 Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement after Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of Gaza, including the key Rafah border crossing.

The deal was brokered by Egypt and helped bridge the gulf between the two Palestinian parties — the Western-backed Fatah and Hamas, which is viewed as a terrorist organization by several countries including the US.

HIGHLIGHT

Mahmoud Abbas called on all factions to unite and develop a common strategy to counter the peace deal and there were hopes he would send a PLO team to Gaza to reconcile with his political rivals at Hamas, ending 13 years of internal division. But the meeting has yet to materialize.

Hamas leader Ismail Radwan said there was no need for hiding or “evasion” as the group’s stance was clear about representation and delegations. “It (Hamas) has repeatedly welcomed the visit of the delegation to achieve reconciliation, the brothers in Islamic Jihad and the popular and democratic fronts approved that,” he told Arab News. Fatah, he said, opposed the inclusion of “resistance forces.”
“The problem lies in the political thought of Abbas and his team, who do not believe in real partnership on the ground, and they like to exclude the resistance factions that have presented hundreds of martyrs,” he added.
Sources said Fatah wanted to exclude three factions — the Liberation Movement, the Mujahideen Movement and the Popular Resistance Committees — whereas Hamas wanted them to participate because of their loyalty.
A Fatah delegation visited Gaza last week without meeting Hamas. Radwan said there was no meeting because the delegation insisted on holding a “bilateral meeting” with Hamas only.
“We welcomed the arrival of the delegation of the Palestinian Authority in the hope that it would be a prelude to a meeting at the level of general secretaries or a scheduled national meeting, but unfortunately Fatah started with obstacles, the first of which was the refusal of the national and factional presence at this meeting,” he said.
Ibrahim Abrash, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said there was no reconciliation agreement in sight. “What happened after the announcement of the deal of the century is an emotional state without real intentions on both sides of the division,” he told Arab News. Mutual accusations and the justifications for the visit’s failure were “trivial,” he added.