On Arab Support for the Chair of the Security Council.
If the Arab League decides to take a stand on Syria during a ministerial meeting on Saturday, this will boost the belief that Arab countries have opted to exit their state of "no policy" on what is taking place in Syria, after their policy of "watching and waiting" and not interfering. In doing so they will be leaving Lebanon, the Arab countries' representative on the Security Council, to devise alone, and decide, alone, how to deal with the division that emerged in the Security Council over recent weeks, before it issued a presidential statement on 3 August. The division pitted western countries that do not want to remain silent about what is happening in Syria against other states, which are calling for non-intervention - some of them have accepted the Syrian regime's stance that the reason for the "security solution" to the protests is the existence of armed gangs in the ranks of the opposition, despite the peaceful nature of their protests.
Lebanon is experiencing domestic political division over the situation in Syria, in which the Arab stance should play a role in the calculations of how to express this stance in the Security Council. Thus, Lebanon was forced to invent the stance of "disassociating itself" from the Security Council's presidential statement. The countries that were hesitant about seeing the Security Council intervene, led by Russia and China, then approved the statement, which allowed it to be issued. The presidential statement condemned the use of force by the Syrian authorities against civilians and called on Damascus to live up to its commitments to international law and keep its promises of political reforms. In fact, in a meeting of the Lebanese Cabinet, Syria's allies in Lebanon criticized the government for failing to vote no on the presidential statement, because if Beirut had done so, it would have blocked the issuing of a such a stance, which requires the unanimous support of Council members. Meanwhile, the Lebanese opposition criticized the government's decision to "disassociate itself," arguing that it was necessary to take a stance in principle against the security solution in the face of peaceful protests.
While the sensitivity of the domestic political situation determined Lebanon's stance in the Security Council, the decision by Arab countries at the time to disassociate themselves from any stance generated a campaign by protestors in Syrian cities against this stance, under the slogan "your silence is killing us." The Arab states only acted on 7 August, four days after the presidential statement was issued. Positions were taken by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the head of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, and Azhar University, after Lebanon's delegation at the UN preceded them by condemning the killing and offering condolences to the victims in deliberations of the Security Council that preceded the issuing of the presidential statement.
A clarification of the Arab stance on the developments in the "Arab Spring" and the events in Syria should be expected to constitute support and political leverage for the stances taken by Lebanon's UN delegation, as the representative of Arab states on the Security Council. This cover should extend to the Lebanese domestic scene, provided that Arab states can draft a united stance on Saturday at the Arab League headquarters. Lebanon will chair the Security Council in September, beginning next Thursday, and the Council's agenda contains the item of requesting recognition for a Palestinian state, as well as the situation in Syria. Meanwhile, the Arab ambassadors and some Arab foreign ministers have repeatedly praised the high competence exhibited by Ambassador Nawaf Salam, the head of Lebanon's UN mission, as he expresses the Arab countries' stance in the Security Council. These officials have also appreciated the energy, wisdom and skill by which members of the Lebanese UN delegation in representing Lebanon and the Arab states, despite their small number and the few capabilities at their disposal. However, all of this praise is no longer sufficient to cover the quasi-absence of Arab countries in involving themselves in the active stance vis-Ea-vis the issues before the Security Council.
On the one hand, the vitality exhibited by Lebanon's UN mission requires a degree of respect, as compensation for the Arabs' absence on issues such as Sudan, Somalia and others, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas informed Lebanese officials that he is relying on the competence of Lebanon as chair of the Security Council to address the world's countries on the issue of recognizing the state of Palestine, more so than that of the Palestinian delegation. However, it is also illogical for Lebanon to serve as the sole source of support for the Arab stance at the world's most important political forum. The reverse is true, and this is what happened in the case of Libya.
In the Syrian case, a unified Arab stance should serve as leverage for the stance by Lebanon. The various Lebanese domestic actors should realize that they cannot go against the Arab League. More importantly, they cannot oppose the wishes of influential members of the international community, because Beirut shares interests with them - these cover Security Council Resolution 1701 and the presence of UNIFIL peacekeeping troops in Lebanon, as well as Resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1757, which are connected to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and 425, etc.
2011 Media Communications Group
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|Publication:||Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)|
|Date:||Aug 26, 2011|
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