US envoy says ‘page turned’ after meeting Lebanese FM

Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti, left, discusses current developments and bilateral relations between the two countries with US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, in Beirut on Monday. (AP)
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Updated 30 June 2020

US envoy says ‘page turned’ after meeting Lebanese FM

  • US ambassador says meeting a positive development following ‘unfortunate’ judicial decision

BEIRUT: The summoning of US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea by Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti on Monday turned into a protocol meeting.
The foreign minister, who summoned Shea after she criticized Hezbollah, noted “the freedom of the media and the right of expression, which are sacred rights.”
A statement issued by the two parties said: “We have openly discussed the current developments on the local scene. We touched on the bilateral relations that bring together the two countries and the Lebanese and American people, and we stressed the importance of cooperation between the two governments in all fields, in support of Lebanon to get out of the economic crisis that it is suffering from.”
After the meeting, Ambassador Shea said: “My meeting with the (foreign) minister was positive, and I agreed with him to turn the page after the unfortunate judicial decision that came to deflect attention from the economic crisis. The United States is ready and will continue to assist Lebanon as long as the government takes the necessary steps to address the causes of the crisis.”
She noted that her country “appreciates cooperation to advance our many common interests and our mutual goals in these particularly difficult times. I affirm that our bilateral relationship is strong and we will continue to provide everything that benefits the people of our two countries.”
Ambassador Shea said during an interview with Al-Hadath TV on Friday that “Hezbollah built a state within the state that drained Lebanon, and cost the Lebanese state billions of dollars that went to Hezbollah’s mini-state instead of the government treasury.”
The meeting between Hitti and Shea was accompanied by a small group protesting against American interference in Lebanese affairs. The US envoy entered through a back door amid tight security measures taken by the Internal Security Forces in the vicinity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut.
Judge Mazeh’s decision caused great discontent in the media and political circles, while it was welcomed by Hezbollah supporters. The Supreme Judicial Council has summoned Judge Mazeh to appear on Tuesday. Mazeh anticipated any possibility of being summoned by announcing that he would apply to formally end his services in the judiciary on Tuesday.
The Chinese Embassy in Lebanon also replied to the American ambassador, who talked about China’s cooperation with other countries during her TV interview with Al-Hadath.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The US is ready and will continue to assist Lebanon as long as the government takes the necessary steps to address the causes of the crisis.

• Hezbollah built a state within the state that drained Lebanon, and cost the Lebanese state billions of dollars.

The Chinese Embassy said in a statement that “China has been carrying out cooperation with developing countries under the principle of respect for State sovereignty and international rules, as well as enhancing international anti-corruption cooperation. The relevant Chinese loans have no political strings.”
The Chinese Embassy hoped that “the United States can view China’s cooperation with other countries in a correct and objective way. The US side should at least stop impeding others from assisting these developing countries, whereas serving its own political needs at the cost of the developing countries’ benefit.”
The summons of the US ambassador to the Foreign Ministry coincided with a visit by Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari to former Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. The media office at the Saudi Embassy said that “during the meeting, all current political developments on the Lebanese and regional arenas were discussed in addition to issues of common concern.”
Suleiman said after the meeting: “By chance, Ambassador Bukhari visited me after the decision to prevent the American ambassador from speaking. Apart from the Vienna Agreement and the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in dealing with ambassadors, is it permissible for us to deprive the media of their freedom? This matter must be corrected and the government’s position must be clarified to preserve Lebanon’s reputation as the country of liberties.”
Suleiman stressed “the necessity of preserving the best relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and all the Arab Gulf states, because their permanent standing alongside Lebanon stems from the love of the brothers and without any political conditions, but in return, there is a necessity that requires all Lebanese not to attack those who always stand at their side.”
Suleiman said: “Whenever the economic crisis intensifies, we say that the relationship with the Kingdom must be corrected. It (the Kingdom) is ready and was preparing 22 agreements for the economy of Lebanon before the recent changes (government change).”
Suleiman stressed that Saudi Arabia “never asked us to fulfill its demands, but rather asked for a good relationship with Lebanon, not to attack it, and not to accept attacks on the Kingdom.”
Suleiman condemned the attack on Saudi Arabia.


Syrian, Russian airstrikes in Idlib amount to war crimes, as do extremist attacks — UN

Updated 33 min 45 sec ago

Syrian, Russian airstrikes in Idlib amount to war crimes, as do extremist attacks — UN

  • UN blames Syrian, Russian planes for bombing schools, hospitals and markets in Idlib

GENEVA: Syrian and Russian planes have carried out deadly aerial strikes amounting to war crimes on schools, hospitals and markets in Idlib province, UN investigators said on Tuesday in a report that also condemned attacks by extremist fighters.
They said that “indiscriminate bombardment” by pro-government forces, ahead of a March cease-fire brokered with Turkey, claimed hundreds of lives and forced nearly one million civilians to flee, which may amount to a crime against humanity.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria also accused Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a extremist group that controls part of northwest Syria, of firing artillery into civilian areas “with no apparent legitimate military objective.”
Fighters from HTS, a group formerly known as Nusra Front, have tortured and executed detainees, it added.
“What is clear from the military campaign is that pro-government forces and UN-designated terrorists flagrantly violated the laws of war and the rights of Syrian civilians,” Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN panel, said in a statement.
The report, covering Nov. 2019 until June 2020, was based on overflight data and witness testimony.
It examines 52 “emblematic attacks” in northwest Syria, including 47 attributed to the Russian-backed Syrian government.
Russian warplanes were solely implicated in a deadly March 5 strike on a poultry farm near Marat Misrin that sheltered displaced people and in three strikes next to a hospital damaged in the rebel-held town of Ariha on Jan. 29, the report said. Russia denies involvement in the latter attack, it said.
The region is home to a mix of Islamist militant and opposition groups, many of which fled other parts of Syria as President Bashar Assad, with Russian backing, seized back territory from them.
“The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that pro-government forces committed the war crimes of deliberately attacking medical personnel and facilities by conducting airstrikes,” it said.
Karen Koning AbuZayd, a panel member, said: “Women, men and children that we interviewed faced the ghastly choice of being bombarded or fleeing deeper into HTS-controlled areas where there are rampant abuses of human rights...
“The acts by HTS members amount to war crimes.”