The Daily Star
August 17, 2011 - 12:00am

President Michel Sleiman promised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday that Lebanon will back their bid for U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state.

Abbas, meanwhile, declared that the Palestinians in Lebanon’s 12 refugee camps do not need arms to defend themselves because the Lebanese people and government can protect them. Abbas’ remarks amounted to lifting legitimacy over arms in and outside the Palestinian refugee camps throughout the country.

“Lebanon is committed to the issue of recognizing the state of Palestine at the United Nations and is ready to deploy its potentials to serve it,” Sleiman said.

For his part, Abbas said: “There are no Palestinian arms to defend the Palestinians in Lebanon. We do not need all the arms and we do not want them. We are under the protection of the Lebanese people, president, government and Parliament. We believe that Lebanon is a united country with its sovereignty over all its territories.”

The two presidents spoke at an iftar banquet hosted by Sleiman in Abbas’ honor at the Presidential Palace in Baabda following talks centering on a Palestinian plan to seek the U.N. Security Council’s recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

Abbas arrived in Beirut Tuesday on a two-day visit to seek support for the Palestinian bid for U.N. membership in September, which will come as Lebanon serves as head of the Security Council.

Abbas’ visit was part of a recent Arab and European tour aimed at rallying support for the bid to seek U.N. membership for a state on the lines that existed before the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

“Lebanon’s assumption of the Security Council presidency during September, in addition to Qatar’s presidency of the next session of the U.N. General Assembly, will serve as a push to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for recognition of Palestine. Lebanon will follow up this Palestinian effort with the aim of ensuring its success,” Sleiman said in his speech. He added that the Lebanese government has approved the recognition of Palestine as a state with full powers. Addressing Abbas, Sleiman said: “The establishment of a Palestinian state reflects your right to self-determination. This is a matter guaranteed by U.N. resolutions.”

Sleiman promised that the government will pay more attention to Palestinian refugees by improving the social and living conditions in the camps.

He said Lebanon’s security was intertwined with the camps’ security. “Lebanon’s full sovereignty cannot be achieved except by boosting the state authority over all Lebanese territories. We are seeking to force Israel to implement [U.N.] Resolution 1701 in cooperation with UNIFIL,” Sleiman said.

Referring to decisions taken by rival Lebanese leaders at a National Dialogue conference on the removal of Palestinian arms from outside the camps, he urged Abbas to achieve these goals.

For his part, Abbas thanked Lebanon for its decision to establish diplomatic relations with the state of Palestine. “This step comes at an important time when we have decided to go to the United Nations to gain recognition of Palestine as a state with full sovereignty with Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas said.

Abbas said the presence of an estimated 350,000 Palestinians in Lebanon was temporary and was subject to Lebanese law. He said if the Palestinians obtained civil and social rights to live in dignity, this did not mean resettlement in Lebanon.

“No one is thinking of resettlement because we know what does this word mean. The Palestinians are temporary guests committed to law,” Abbas said.

Abbas was received at Beirut airport by Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Abdullah Abdullah and representatives of Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions. Abbas met at the VIP lounge at the airport separately with Mansour and representatives of Palestinian factions before heading to Baabda.

Abbas will hold talks with Prime Minister Najib Mikati Wednesday before raising the Palestinian flag over the new Palestinian Embassy building in Beirut. Mikati will host an iftar for Abbas at the Grand Serail.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour told Al-Nour radio station that voting for recognition of a Palestinian state will be one of Lebanon’s priorities once it takes the helm at the Security Council next month.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017