Bogdanov Withholds 'Secret' on Presidential Vote, Says Baabda Declaration Valid for Entire Mideastإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov called Friday for endorsing the principles of the Baabda Declaration in all countries in the Middle East, as he declined to reveal whether or not he discussed the issue of the stalled presidential vote with the Lebanese officials.
“We encourage holding the presidential election and we laud the role of the Lebanese army and security forces in the fight against terrorism,” Bogdanov said after meeting former president Michel Suleiman.
He also reiterated his country's support for the Baabda Declaration, noting that it is “valid for implementation in the rest of the countries in the Middle East.”
The declaration was endorsed by Lebanon's rival political parties on June 11, 2012, following a national dialogue session at the Baabda Palace.
It calls for keeping Lebanon away from the policies and conflicts of the region and the world, except when it comes to abiding by the resolutions of the United Nations, the Arab consensus and the Palestinian cause.
In his meeting with Bogdanov, Suleiman underlined “the importance of the Baabda Declaration,” noting that “it would have ensured (Lebanon's) neutrality and alleviated the repercussions (of the Syrian crisis) had it not been for the renouncement of some Lebanese forces who had endorsed it during the dialogue session.”
The former president was apparently referring to Hizbullah, which has sent hundreds of fighters across the border to bolster the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the face of an Islamist-led uprising.
Noting that the protracted presidential vacuum “serves the interests of the terrorist groups before anyone else,” Suleiman urged “further Russian support for the Lebanese army, which is fighting an anti-terror battle on behalf of everyone and has foiled a lot of plots that were aimed at altering the face and image of Lebanon.”
Later in the day, Bogdanov announced after talks with Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain al-Tineh that his country is seeking to convince the Syrian government and opposition to engage in “serious and unconditional negotiations.”
“Our mission is to coordinate the preliminary consultative contacts to set the stage for serious and unconditional negotiations, so that the Syrians can come together and start talking and exchanging ideas regarding all the issues,” Bogdanov said.
He also stressed that Moscow will continue to back Lebanon “at the political and economic levels, and of course in the military field, in order to boost the anti-terror capabilities of the Lebanese army, police and security forces.”
The Russian official also held talks with Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil at the Bustros Palace in Ashrafieh.
Asked whether he was carrying any Russian initiative regarding the presidential vote in Lebanon, Bogdanov said: “This is a secret.”
“The situation is very dangerous in the region but it is possible to find solutions,” the Russian diplomat said after meeting MP Mohammed Raad, the head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc.
The lawmaker for his part said “major difficulties” are preventing solutions in the region, noting that “the influential camp in the region does not have any political solutions.”
Bogdanov also held talks Friday with Prime Minister Tammam Salam.
He had arrived in Beirut on Thursday night.
He is scheduled to meet with several officials and discuss with them the local developments in addition to relations between Lebanon and Russia.
Pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat quoted Russian sources in Beirut as saying that Bogdanov will meet with 21 Lebanese personalities from across the political spectrum.
The agenda of his talks is topped by the battle against terrorism and the repercussions of the Syrian war on Lebanon, the sources said.
Following his two-day visit to Beirut, he is expected to travel to Turkey for talks with several Syrian opposition figures and with Turkish officials on the war in Syria, said Asharq al-Awsat.
But the sources stressed Bogdanov will travel to Moscow after wrapping up his trip to Lebanon.
The diplomat last visited Lebanon in April 2013.