Mahmoud Abbas from Baabda: We Abide by Lebanon's Decision on Arms in Refugee Camps

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas assured on Wednesday abiding by the Lebanese cabinet's decision regarding the possession of arms in the country's refugee camps.

"We abide by the Lebanese cabinet's decisions regarding Lebanon's safety and the possession of weapons in refugee camps,” Abbas said in a mutual press conference with his Lebanese counterpart in Baabda Palace.

By long-standing convention, the Lebanese army does not enter the country's 12 refugee camps, leaving security inside to the Palestinians themselves.

Abbas stated: “We do not interfere in others' countries issues and we stress on disassociating Palestinians from Lebanon's internal conflicts.”

Meanwhile, President Michel Suleiman revealed that there are Palestinians that are “individually taking part in the country's conflicts.”

“It is for their and for Lebanon's best interests if they do not get involved,” Suleiman warned.

Suleiman praised efforts exerted to prevent the involvement of any Palestinian faction in the clashes of the southern city of Sidon.

“We both agreed on the importance of not letting Palestinians slip into the internal Lebanese crises.”

Abbas' visit to Lebanon comes days after fierce clashes took place between the army and gunmen supporting Salafist cleric Ahmed al-Asir in Sidon.

Located in the southern city, Ain el-Hilweh is the largest Palestinian camp in the country and home to about 50,000 refugees and is known to harbor extremists and fugitives.

Abbas declared in the press conference that the presence of refugees in Lebanon is "temporary," awaiting their return to Palestine.

“No one among us believes in naturalization,' he expressed.

Suleiman confirmed: “The naturalization of refugees will not take place.”

"I assured President Abbas that all Lebanese people support the refugees' right of returning back to Palestine.”

Regarding the Palestinian cause, Abbas stressed holding on to the two-state solution and considering Jerusalem as Palestine's capital.

“There are no other initiatives discussed other than the Arabic proposal,” he noted.

Suleiman remarked: “We agree on not adopting a solution at Lebanon's expense.”.

The president told reporters that he reconstruction of the northern Nahr al-Bared is facing “obstacles.”

“We did not receive the money we had been promised for the reconstruction of the camp. We are facing obstacles but the construction plans and maps are ready,” he revealed.

The clashes at Nahr al-Bared erupted in May 2007 and ended in September of that year with the army defeating al-Qaida-linked Fatah al-Islam militants who had taken up base at the camp.

Over 400 people, including 168 soldiers, were killed in the battles.

At a dinner banquet thrown in Abbas' honor at the Baabda palace later on Wednesday, Suleiman said: "Today, we hail all the sacrifices of the military institution and this requires commitment to the Baabda Declaration and sparing Lebanon the policies of regional axes."

"We are worried over what's happening in Syria and let no one blame us for seeking to protect our domestic stability and condemning cross-border violations, whichever side they may come from," the president added.

He noted that among the "essential requirements" for stability in Lebanon is "protecting and organizing the ties with the Palestinians."

"Your cooperation in reining in groups that intervened in Sidon highlights your efforts to improve Lebanese-Palestinian ties," Suleiman said, addressing Abbas.

"We must remain committed to implementing the resolutions of the (Lebanese) national dialogue conference and addressing the issues of security and weapons inside the camps in a manner that protects the security of the state, the citizens and the refugees," added Suleiman.

The president lauded Abbas' "continuous efforts to implement these objectives," adding that the Lebanese government will "continue seeking to improve the refugees' living conditions while reminding of the responsibility that falls on UNRWA and the international community."

For his part, Abbas said: "The Palestinians who reside in Lebanon are all guests who want to return to their country and are all under the law in the country that backed them in their plight."

He reiterated the Palestinians' rejection of naturalization, "the thing that was mentioned in the Arab Peace Initiative which will not be changed or modified."

"Our homeland is Palestine and we do not accept any alternative and our presence in Lebanon is temporary. We stress our respect for Lebanon's territorial integrity and we count on the Lebanese government's protection of the security of Palestinians in Lebanon," said Abbas.

"We are still committed to the choice of just and comprehensive peace and the two-state solution and we will only accept Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine," the Palestinian leader added.

He stressed that the Palestinians are still committed to "the choice of just and comprehensive peace and the two-state solution."

"We will only accept Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine," he added.

"We are not party to any dispute or conflict that erupts here or there," he stressed.

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