U.S. Envoy Meets Miqati, Calls for Avoiding Actions that Worsen Syria Crisis

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية W460

U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to Lebanon Richard M. Mills Jr. met with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati on Friday, urging “all parties in the region” to avoid any actions that would “exacerbate the crisis in Syria.”

Miqati and Mills discussed bilateral relations as well as the security situation in Lebanon and regional events, according to a statement issued by the U.S. embassy.

Mills expressed the United States’ “grave concern” and condemned “the continued shelling of Lebanese territory from Syria.”

He reiterated Washington's support for “the principles of the Baabda Declaration and Lebanon’s dissociation policy,” calling on all parties in the region to “avoid any actions that would exacerbate the crisis in Syria, increase the propensity for spillover violence, and negatively impact civilian populations.”

Mills also expressed the United States’ “strong concern over Hizbullah’s involvement in Syria, fighting on behalf of the Assad regime, which risks drawing Lebanon into the conflict and is counter to the Lebanese government’s policies.”

He also renewed “the commitment of the United States to a stable, sovereign, and independent Lebanon.”

Lebanese authorities have officially followed a policy to distance the country from the Syrian conflict. But they have also been reluctant to publicly blame either regime forces or rebel fighters for fire hitting villages and towns near the border with Syria.

Hizbullah denies taking part in the Syrian civil war, but top Hizbullah official Nabil Qaouq has said that his group is "performing a national duty" toward Lebanese citizens living in Syrian border towns and villages by supporting the regime-backed "popular committees."

Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has also declared that members of the party are taking part in defending Shiite holy sites in Syria, in particular the notorious Sayyeda Zainab shrine.

On Thursday, Nasrallah said Syria will supply Hizbullah with "game-changing weapons," vowing to back “the Syrian popular resistance” in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Lebanese Islamist clerics Sheikh Salem al-Rafehi and Ahmed al-Asir have accused Hizbullah of sending fighters to attack Syrian Sunnis, and have in turn sent fighters to Syria to aid the rebels and declared “jihad.”

Much of the heaviest fighting has raged near the Lebanese border around Qusayr, and Syrian troops backed by Hizbullah fighters have advanced throughout the area and are now on the outskirts of the city of Qusayr.

The regime has made recapturing the city a key objective. President Bashar Assad reportedly said last month that fighting in the area was the "main battle" his troops were waging.

Since it began in March 2011, Syria's conflict has fueled local tensions between the communities in Lebanon, with bouts of street fighting and kidnappings.

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