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Taif’s peace pact for Lebanon

Taif’s peace pact for Lebanon
What became known as the Taif Agreement, the result of determined diplomacy by Saudi Arabia and the Arab League, paved the way to peace. (AFP)
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Updated 06 May 2020

Taif’s peace pact for Lebanon

Taif’s peace pact for Lebanon

Saudi Arabia’s determination helped end the Lebanese Civil War

Summary

On Oct. 22, 1989, 23 days of intensive talks between the 30 Muslim and 32 Christian members of the Lebanese parliament at the Saudi Arabian resort of Taif ended with agreement on a national reconciliation charter, designed to end 15 years of civil war.

Multi-sectarian Lebanon had been plunged into a brutal conflict in 1975 partly because the allocation of parliamentary seats along religious lines, established during the French mandate from 1923 to 1946, had not been adjusted to take account of a shift in demographics in favor of Muslims.

What became known as the Taif Agreement, the result of determined diplomacy by Saudi Arabia and the Arab League, paved the way to peace. As one jubilant MP from east Beirut told Arab News on the day agreement was reached: “We have extricated the tumor from the Arab body and stopped the bleeding which was painful and interminable.”It was a prognosis that was to prove over-optimistic.

PARIS: The Taif Agreement was the outcome of a concerted attempt by Saudi Arabia to bring about an end to the Lebanese Civil War. Other parties included Syria’s Hafez Assad, the US administration, and the various Lebanese factions fighting in the war. Saudi Arabia wanted to find a solution involving all these players to stop the war and bring about an improvement on the 1943 Lebanese National Pact.

This pact was the unwritten agreement between then-President Bechara El-Khoury and Prime Minister Riad Al-Solh that founded independent Lebanon as a multi-confessional state. It was a power-sharing arrangement between Christians and Muslims, whereby the president was always required to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shiite. The powers handed down were of particular benefit to Lebanon’s Christians. The civil war required an adjustment in this equilibrium. It also required an adjustment in Lebanon’s relations with the Arab world in a period where Assad was getting more powerful, with the aim of being more influential and hegemonic in Lebanon.

The Taif Agreement was fathered by then-Speaker Hussein El-Husseini, who was hosted by Saudi Arabia in Taif under the guidance of the late Prince Saud Al-Faisal and a Lebanese friend of the Kingdom, who was then a businessman, named Rafik Hariri. The agreement covered political reform, giving full power to the Council of Ministers and greater power to the Muslim prime minister, as opposed to previously, when all powers were concentrated with the Christian president. It established special relations between Lebanon and Syria and a framework to begin Syria’s withdrawal from the country. Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Sharaa later denied there was a commitment made to Prince Saud to withdraw from Lebanon. It was only after the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri in 2005 that Syria finally pulled out.

“We have extricated the tumor from the Arab body and stopped the bleeding which was painful and interminable.”

Lebanese MP in Arab News, Oct. 23, 1989

Saudi Arabia had, since the late 1970s under Lebanese President Suleiman Frangieh and then Elias Sarkis, joined all Arab and international efforts to bring an end to the war in Lebanon. The Taif Agreement achieved this after it was approved by the Lebanese Parliament on Nov. 5, 1989. Rene Moawad subsequently became president.

When Saudi Arabia pushed for the peace conferences in Geneva and Lausanne in 1983 and 1984, respectively, but failed to stop the war, it continued to mediate with the involvement of the Arab League Tripartite Committee to Lebanon, under the chairmanship of Prince Saud. The representatives from Morocco and Algeria were former foreign ministers Abdellatif Filali and Sid Ahmed Ghozali, respectively, and they were joined by the Arab League’s Special Envoy to Lebanon Lakhdar Brahimi.

Key Dates

  • 1

    Fighting between Maronites and Muslims in Lebanon begins when suspected PLO gunmen attack a Christian church in East Beirut, killing four. Phalangists retaliate, killing 30 Palestinians in a bus, triggering widespread fighting.

  • 2

    The Arab League summit in Riyadh calls for an end to the civil war and creates the peacekeeping Arab Deterrent Force.

    Timeline Image Oct. 16, 1976

  • 3

    Start of the Hundred Days’ War in Beirut between Christian militias and the mainly Syrian troops of the Arab Deterrent Force.

  • 4

    Israel invades southern Lebanon to halt attacks over the border by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

  • 5

    Christian phalangist Bachir Gemayel, former leader of Lebanese Forces Maronite militia, is elected president.

  • 6

    Gemayel and 26 other high-ranking Phalangists are killed by a bomb planted by a Maronite Christian.

  • 7

    Outgoing president Amine Gemayal defies precedent and appoints a fellow Maronite Christian, General Michel Aoun, as prime minister, a role traditionally reserved for a Muslim.

  • 8

    Aoun declares war of liberation against Syrian occupation.

    Timeline Image March 14, 1989

  • 9

    The Taif Agreement is reached, but opposed by Aoun.

  • 10

    The Taif Agreement is ratified and parliament elects Maronite Christian René Moawad as Lebanon’s 13th president.

    Timeline Image Nov. 5, 1989

  • 11

    Moawad is assassinated by unknown assailants.

  • 12

    Aoun is driven into exile in France by Syrian forces.

  • 13

    Aoun returns to Lebanon after Syrian troops finally withdraw.

  • 14

    Aoun is elected president of Lebanon.

The last committee meeting in Rabat before Taif in 1988 was when these three ministers summoned Al-Sharaa and warned him that they had proof of Syria’s arming of both then-Prime Minister Michel Aoun’s army and the Lebanese Forces headed by Samir Geagea. Aoun had been appointed interim prime minister by outgoing president Amine Gemayel, who did not accept Assad’s diktats. Assad’s forces pounded the Christian stronghold of Achrafieh. Aoun, protected by French Ambassador Rene Ala, then left for France to begin his long exile.

 

(Rafik) Hariri was shuttled between various world capitals to organize a conference in the Kingdom to agree on reform and the election of a president

Randa Takieddine

Efforts to end the war did not stop and Saudi Arabia worked through two negotiators, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and Hariri. This was the outset of Hariri’s political involvement on the Lebanese scene. King Fahd entrusted Prince Bandar to direct efforts for a solution in Lebanon, and Hariri was shuttled between various world capitals to organize a conference in the Kingdom to agree on reform and the election of a president.

Hariri managed to persuade the Lebanese deputies to come to Saudi Arabia, where they were hosted in Taif. They agreed to correct the balance of power and give more influence to the Council of Ministers and the Muslim prime minister. 




A page from the Arab News archive showing the news on Oct. 23, 1989.

Saudi Arabia thus took the initiative and helped put the Lebanese Parliament back into action, since negotiations with the militias had failed to achieve peace. The Taif Agreement was concluded, but Aoun never accepted the terms. Following the election of Moawad and his assassination 15 days later — as he was returning from the Lebanese Independence Day celebrations — Zahle deputy Elias Hrawi, who was favored by the Syrians, became president.

One unforgettable sentence uttered by a brilliant French diplomat, having served in Lebanon, still rings true in view of the disastrous situation currently prevailing there: “The political class who made the civil war in Lebanon is still in power, but it cannot succeed in ruling the country.”

  • Randa Takieddine is a Parisbased Lebanese journalist who writes for Arab News. She covered the last committee meeting in Rabat before Taif in 1988 for Al-Hayat and headed its bureau in France for 30 years.


Review: Kate Winslet exudes quiet brilliance in sleuthing series ‘Mare of Easttown’

Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)
Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)
Updated 15 min 2 sec ago

Review: Kate Winslet exudes quiet brilliance in sleuthing series ‘Mare of Easttown’

Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)

CHENNAI: British actress Kate Winslet has dabbled in period pieces, rom-coms, dramas and everything in between, but in her latest outing in “Mare of Easttown,” a series streaming on OSN in the Middle East, she absolutely dazzles as a detective in a small, conservative town in Pennsylvania.

In bleak, deprived small-town America, everybody knows everybody and working as a cop is not easy for Winslet’s character Mare Sheehan.

Mare, who rarely smiles but is not grumpy or snappy, carries her own demons. She is tired and weighed down by grief over a family tragedy. Add to the mix a wayward ex-husband (played by David Denman) and a cagey daughter (Angourie Rice), and it seems her personal life is enough to fill a drama series on its own.

But this is a murder mystery, and soon our protagonist is faced with the unsolved case of a 19-year-old missing girl and more. The girl had been gone for a year, and her mother is a friend of Mare’s, which makes it difficult and personal for the detective. And it seems like a hard bolt from the blue when Erin (Cailee Spaeny), a single teenage mother, is found dead in the woods one night after townsfolk had gathered for a party.

The people of Easttown, used to leading uneventful lives, are not pleased with the ramped up police presence — including the intrusion of a county detective, Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) who is brought in to assist Mare — and it is into this tense atmosphere that Brad Ingelsby, who created and wrote the series, tweaks the formula to add a romantic angle.

Mare meets writer and guest lecturer Richard Ryan (an intelligent, witty and charming Guy Pearce), who is visiting the town.

The writer turns “Mare of Easttown” from what could have been a dull and boring story into something that leaves us thirsting for more at the end of each twisting episode, where every detail matters.

It is a fantastic study in both police work and, more interestingly, the effect a brutal crime has on a community. The series is ably led by director Craig Zobel, who builds a convincing narrative style.

Of course, his eyes are on the star of the series, and it is remarkable to see Winslet so engaging.


Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians
Updated 18 min 40 sec ago

Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians
  • Aboul Gheit called on the international community to act immediately to stop the violence
  • The Muslim World League has strongly condemned the attacks at Al-Aqsa Mosque

CAIRO: The head of the Arab League condemned on Tuesday deadly Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip as “indiscriminate and irresponsible” and said Israel had provoked an earlier escalation in violence by its actions in Jerusalem.
“Israeli violations in Jerusalem, and the government’s tolerance of Jewish extremists hostile to Palestinians and Arabs, is what led to the ignition of the situation in this dangerous way,” Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement.
The attacks in Gaza were a “miserable show of force at the expense of children’s blood,” he said.
Aboul Gheit called on the international community to act immediately to stop the violence, saying continuing “Israeli provocations” were an affront to Muslims on the eve of the Eid holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Arab League foreign ministers are holding a virtual meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Muslim World League has strongly condemned the attacks at Al-Aqsa Mosque, it said in a statement.
The organization, issued Tuesday went on to say that it rejected the escalations against worshippers.
Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League further denounced all acts of violence that undermined the dignity and rights of the Palestinian people, as well as provoking the feelings of Muslims around the world.
Al-Issa called on the International community to put an end to the violence, preserve the right of the Palestinian people, provide the necessary protection of civilians, guarantee their right to practice their religion, and stop all violations and attacks.
He also reiterated the affirmation of standing by the Palestinian people. He said he supports all peace efforts to reach a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.
He also said the solution should allow Palestinians to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as their capital, in accordance with international legitimacy decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative.
Health officials in Gaza said at least 20 people, including nine children, were killed.


US actress, mogul Jessica Alba shows off Arab labels in New York

Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)
Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)
Updated 6 min 58 sec ago

US actress, mogul Jessica Alba shows off Arab labels in New York

Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US actress and business mogul Jessica Alba showed off a pair of dainty heels by Lebanese designer Andrea Wazen and accessories by part-Arab jewelry designer Ana Khouri while out and about in New York last week.

The actress — who is also the co-founder of the billion-dollar home care business The Honest Company — was in New York to visit NASDAQ headquarters for the IPO of her company.

Later, she was spotted walking in Manhattan and even appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” wearing a pair of dainty rose-colored mules by Wazen.

Alba showed off the Denver mesh mules in pink, which feature a translucent upper, thin ankle strap and elegant pointed toe shape. The heels complemented a dark sage green bag by Celine and a greige trench coat-and-sheath dress combination.

The entrepreneur and actress wore a pair of pink heels by Andrea Wazen. (Getty Images)

Wazen isn’t the only Arab designer Alba flaunted while out and about in New York. She attended the IPO of her company wearing chunky gold statement earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. 

New York-based Khouri has seen her pieces worn by everyone from Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron to Karlie Kloss and Alicia Vikander.

Wazen is also no stranger to celebrity fans, and has seen her designs sported by the likes of actress Gabrielle Union-Wade, model Ashley Graham, Katy Perry, Kylie Jenner and Jennifer Lopez during her “It’s My Party World Tour” in 2019.

The shoe designer is fresh off a win at the Footwear News (FN) Achievement Awards in December, nabbing the Emerging Talent prize.

“What a feeling… I cannot explain the joy and satisfaction I am feeling,” she wrote at the time, before thanking Michael Atmore, chief brand officer and the director of the event, for recognizing her as this year’s emerging talent, stylist Jill Jacobs for presenting her with the award and her team, who she said she couldn’t have “accomplished any of this” without.

“Last but not least, I would like to dedicate this award to my beautiful city, my source of inspiration and my home Beirut,” she wrote.


UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
Updated 56 min ago

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
  • The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider

DUBAI: British telecommunications company Helios Towers has signed a deal with Omantel to acquire 2,890 sites for $575 million from the sultanate’s largest mobile network operator.
The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider.
The deal is expected to bring in a $59 million bump in revenues in the first full year of operations.
It also involves a $35 million plan to add 300 new build-to-suit sites over the next seven years.
“We view Oman as a very attractive and supportive market for foreign investments, with strong growth and exciting future prospects,” the UK-based company’s chief Kash Pandya said in a statement.
He said the acquisition strengthens its business through “further hard-currency revenues and diversification” in what the CEO described as the fastest growing markets in the region.
“We look forward to working with Omantel and the other MNOs over the coming years to further develop next generation mobile infrastructure solutions and services in Oman,” he added.
The partnership reflects Oman’s FDI aspirations, Omantel CEO Tala Said Al-Mamari said, adding it will create jobs and opportunities in the country.
“This move also allows the monetization of our towers at attractive valuation levels, de-lever our balance sheet, and will accelerate network development in next generation advanced technologies,” he noted.
He said it would allow Omantel’s management to focus on innovation and product development while outsourcing infrastructure management to an independent firm.
The transaction will close by the end of 2021, and the long-term partnership will last for an initial period of 15 years.


Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 

Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 
Updated 11 May 2021

Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 

Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 
  • Two-week tournament saw a 32-draw men’s competition and a unisex under-14’s doubles contest
  • The initiative, called ACE FOR GOOD, was set up by high school student Hussein Nada

DUBAI: A tennis initiative set up by a Dubai teen has garnered support for Autism Awareness Month.

The initiative, called ACE FOR GOOD, was set up by high school student Hussein Nada in order to bring together tennis lovers to play in support of a good cause.

The initiative comprised of a tournament organized by Rackets Academy and 17-year-old Hussein.

“I decided to create ACE FOR GOOD’which will allow tennis players to give back to the community through supporting a charitable cause,” she told Arab News. “ACE FOR GOOD’s 2021 Dubai tournament perfectly (suited) Autism Awareness Month, (as did) the willingness of the tennis community to support and … make a difference.”

The two-week tournament saw a 32-draw men’s competition and a unisex under-14’s doubles contest.

It was backed by several sponsors including Brand for Less (BFL) Group, Daoud Group, Loca restaurants, Head, Marina Pharmacy Group and the Flower Co.

“BFL Group is so proud of this sponsorship, as we always strive to work for philanthropic causes, since this reflects our values. Nevertheless, sports and fitness-related activities always get our support as we believe in their key role in maintaining our mental health and wellbeing,” Yasser Beydoun, co-founder and managing partner of BFL Group, said.

“We salute Hussein for his initiative and efforts, which made us so excited to take this sponsorship opportunity and support him in achieving this great cause. He showed us that age is never a barrier for doing good; we can all do something good for the community as long as we believe in the cause and in our abilities,” Beydoun added.

As a result of the positive feedback received from players, sponsors, and the tennis community, ACE FOR GOOD is now set to become an annual event in Dubai, with plans also in the works to take it abroad, with a tournament set to take place in Egypt in August.