Salam Considers Situation in Arsal 'Dangerous', Says Ceasefire Requires Several Conditions

Prime Minister Tammam Salam described on Monday the situation in the northeastern border town of Arsal as “difficult,” expressing hope that ceasefire attempts would be successful.

“Our conditions are clear, gunmen must withdraw to the outskirts (of Arsal) and then outside Lebanese territories and all security members taken hostage must be released,” Salam told al-Mustaqbal newspaper.

Commenting on reports concerning alleged negotiations to reach a ceasefire in the area, Salam said: “We don't mind such endeavors if we reach a permanent end to the clashes and the withdrawal of gunmen.”

“Such endeavors require thorough follow up to become mature.”

The premier voiced hope that politicians would reach a comprehensive and united stance to safeguard the army, which has been battling since Saturday Islamist gunmen.

“We support the army and the residents of Arsal, who were taken as hostages by armed men.”

The violence is the worst to hit Arsal since the beginning of the war in neighboring Syria in 2011.

Media reports said on Sunday evening that a humanitarian truce was reached between the army and gunmen following efforts by the Muslim Scholars Committee.

However, the reports said that the Army Command made several demands in order to agree on ceasefire, including the handing over of all missing troops.”

Salam told al-Mustaqbal that Arsal doesn't harbor gunmen, saying: “Syrian encampments in the area facilitate matters for armed men.”

He warned of the risks posed by such a matter, stressing the importance of controlling these sites.

Arsal is home to 40,000 residents and 120,000 Syrian refugees.

The Sunni-majority area is sympathetic to the uprising against Bashar Assad, whose regime has regularly launched air raids in the area that it says target opposition fighters holed up in the mountainous region around Arsal.



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