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Friday, June 11, 1999
LEBANON AND THE PEACE PROCESS
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London, February 6, 1996
I am glad to be with you today, in London, to talk about my country and the peace process. England played an essential role at the eve of our independence. Nobody can ignore the role played by General Spears when the Lebanese people were fighting for their freedom and sovereignty. And we are still confident in the British role in the Middle East and in Lebanon. And we insist that while the future of this area is debatable, London plays a leading role in the search for a just and constructive peace.
Before the Lebanese war, we used to share with the British people the same sacred values of democracy, freedom and respect for the principles of human rights. It is still the main goal of our national struggle. That's why we deserve your help, and that of your major allies, the United States, that we can achieve a just and durable peace for Lebanon and the Middle East.
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There is an appearance of peace in Beirut and in some part of my country. But it is an artificial peace imposed by foreign military occupations, and at the expense of our sovereignty, our freedom and our democracy. This situation is artificial and cannot last. The Lebanese people have a long tradition of freedom and liberty. We cannot accept such a cruel attack on the essence of our "Raison d'être": Freedom.
During the last legislative elections in the summer of 1992, the Lebanese people had the opportunity to express their resistance to this false peace, and 87% boycotted these elections.
In May 1996, the Trade Unions declared a peaceful strike and decided to demonstrate in the street under two slogans: "Bread and Liberty". Not being able to face this legitimate and huge popular reaction, the government declared a state of alert and ceasefire all over the country.
We can also elaborate on and give a lot of examples of the real explosive situation which prevails all over the country. What is going on in the South of the country is by itself the expression of the Lebanese tragedy.
Thus, the suffering of our people has taught us a severe lesson. And today, there is a real opportunity for the Lebanese peace, of a just and durable peace. There is an opportunity for reconciliation and national solidarity. We are united in our commitment to a sovereign and democratic Lebanon, free from all foreign forces; united in our commitment to improve and reform our political system and national institutions, and our commitment to genuine socio-economic development. Under these conditions, we the people of Lebanon will prosper. Without these conditions, there will be no peace in Lebanon or in the Middle East.
Several attempts to resolve the Lebanese problems failed, because they were manipulated from outside the country and at the expense of our fundamental rights and national interests.
Foreign intervention in Lebanon has had a history of failure. The Syrian intervention in Lebanon in 1976, the Israeli interventions in 1978 and 1982, the UN resolutions 425, 520, the Taef agreement signed in Saudi Arabia, the various treaties and accords signed in Damascus since 1991, and the Katushya accords in 1993 and 1996, all failed to improve regional security. On the contrary, evidence suggests that the only way peace will prevail in Lebanon is to return Lebanon to the Lebanese. And to let the Lebanese themselves find the solutions to their problems which respect their will and aspirations.
If the Lebanese people continue to be used as pawns in regional politics, Lebanon will remain a spawning ground for international terrorists and dissidents. Only when the Lebanese are fully responsible for their own destiny will they again be responsible members of the international community and reliable partners in peace.
The attempted denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination led to decades of turmoil - much of it needless. Similarly, the denial of the Lebanese right to self-determination and the denial of the Lebanese right to freely negotiate its relationship with its neighbors could also lead to needless turmoil.
Taef promised the Lebanese a redistribution of power and a gradual decrease in Syrian military presence on Lebanese soil. As one can witness today, Syria is more entrenched in Lebanon then it ever was. Not only does it control the Lebanese government and 87% of the Lebanese territory, but it is slowly dismantling and infiltrating many Lebanese institutions, forcing the government into various economic and cooperation agreements and not preventing free and fair elections.
The Lebanese people have a special and unique relationship with the Syrians. No other nation is or can be as close to the Lebanese as are the Syrians. This relationship will not change.
On the other hand, not even the Syrians can negotiate for Lebanon. Only the legitimate representatives of the Lebanese people can speak for them. Israel and Syria have much to discuss, including stability in Lebanon, but no peace along Israel's northern border is sustainable if it is not negotiated by legitimate representatives of the Lebanese people.
Lebanon cannot have free and fair elections under Syrian occupation. There are 40.000 Syrian troops in Lebanon, and the current Lebanese President - the government - and much of Parliament have been appointed by Syria. They must be replaced by a government of Lebanese National Unity.
Essential to an interim solution, these conditions are the minimum the Lebanese can accept, prior to the full withdrawal of foreign forces is the atteinment of the following conditions:
1. A government of National Unity, including Lebanese exiles, will return a minimum of legitimacy to the Lebanese political system.
2. The electoral law - proposed by the government of National Unity - must allow equal opportunities for all Lebanese political groups.
3. To ensure a free and fair elections international observer groups must be involved throughout the entire electoral process.