Kerry Meets Lebanese Leaders, Urges Hizbullah, Iran, Russia to Exert Efforts to End Syria Warإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Wednesday Russia, Iran, and Hizbullah to help end the war in Syria, saying that Lebanon has felt the impact of the crisis more than any other country.
He said: “Iran, Russia, and Hizbullah must engage in a legitimate effort to bring this war to an end.”
He made his remarks after holding talks at the Grand Serail with Prime Minister Tammam Salam during an unannounced trip he made to Lebanon on Wednesday afternoon.
“All nations have a responsibility to end the Syrian conflict,” he added.
“Nowhere has the international impact of the conflict in Syria been felt more in many ways than in Lebanon,” he noted.
“It's important to recognize the human catastrophe unfolding before our eyes,” Kerry said of the crisis, while adding that a political solution will help end the war.
“A secure and stable Lebanon is a prerequisite for a stable and secure region,” he continued.
“I am proud that we have stood by the Lebanese people since day one and we will continue to support them. We will continue to support the security initiatives” in the country, he added.
“The U.S. will continue to work closely with our partners in Lebanon in order to protect against any of those who seek a different goal,” said the American official.
Addressing the situation in Lebanon, Kerry noted: “The current political stalemate in Lebanon is deeply troubling.”
“Lebanon needs a full empowered, fully functioning, and complete government,” he stressed.
“It needs a government free of foreign influence and with a president who is fully responsive to the needs of the people,” he declared before reporters at the Grand Serail.
Moreover, he remarked that Lebanon’s security has been of paramount importance to the U.S.
“The U.S. is deeply committed to Lebanon’s security, stability, and sovereignty,” he stressed.
This includes helping it cope with the burden of Syrian refugees.
Kerry therefore revealed that another $290 million in human assistance will be granted to those affected by the Syrian crisis, including $51 million to refugees in Lebanon.
Asked if he made a proposal over ending the deadlock in Lebanon, he replied that no suggestion was made, adding that his visit to Lebanon was made at Obama's behest to encourage Lebanese powers to end the “deeply troubling political stalemate”.
He also asked Salam about what measures will be taken given the current political deadlock, while stressing the need to elect a president as soon as possible.
Later on Wednesday, Kerry held talks in Ain al-Tineh with Speaker Nabih Berri. He did not make a statement after the meeting.
However, Berri's office issued a communique saying “the U.S. official reiterated Washington's stance that it does not have any (presidential) candidate or any veto on anyone.”
For his part, Berri “focused on the need for a political solution in Syria and noted that the Palestinian cause is the core of the events in the region,” said the communique.
Meanwhile, sources close to Berri said the speaker was dismayed by remarks voiced earlier by Kerry at the Grand Serail regarding Israel.
“Israel is our friend, our strong ally. We are deeply committed. We’ve said again and again the bonds of our relationship extend way beyond security,” Kerry had said, in response to a reporter's question about the new Palestinian unity government.
But the aforementioned sources said “the remarks voiced by Kerry during the meeting were totally different than the ones he had said during his press conference at the Grand Serail."
Kerry arrived in Beirut on Wednesday afternoon, beginning an unannounced visit that is the first by a U.S. secretary of state to Lebanon in five years.
His visit comes more than three years into a conflict that is raging in neighboring Syria, which has had major political, humanitarian and security consequences on Lebanon.
"The secretary is going to announce our next response to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and U.N. system appeals," a diplomatic source said told Agence France Presse, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Syria's war has created an unprecedented refugee crisis, pushing some three million people out of their country, including more than a million into Lebanon.
The visit also comes during a protracted political crisis in Lebanon, which has been without a president since last month because of unbreachable divisions between the March 8 and March 14 camps.
The diplomatic source said Kerry's visit was in part aimed at showing "support for the government" of Salam, which has assumed executive powers since Michel Suleiman's mandate as president expired on May 25.
"This a time when we want to send a message that they should elect a president as soon as possible," he said, adding Lebanon should do that "without foreign influence or foreign interference."
Kerry would also urge support for the Lebanese army and security forces, the source added.
Lebanon's National News Agency said Kerry arrived in Beirut from Warsaw amid strict security measures and a media blackout regarding the time of his arrival.
He was welcomed at the Rafik Hariri International Airport by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale and embassy employees.
The top U.S. diplomat left Beirut in the evening, after around five hours of separate talks with Salam, Berri and al-Rahi.
Last week, Kerry had emphasized during a telephone call with former president Michel Suleiman the need to elect his successor as soon as possible. The U.S. official also voiced his country's support for the Baabda Declaration.
Suleiman's six-year term ended on May 25. The parliament failed to elect a successor despite having held five electoral sessions, amid a boycott by the March 8 coalition.