Arab foreign ministers faced the divisive issue of Syria’s role in Lebanon in their meeting on Tuesday, a day after Gulf states and Jordan endorsed a UN resolution to withdraw all foreign troops from Lebanon. Apparently the foreign here means Syria.
On their side, Syria and Lebanon have rejected the UN Security Council resolution explaining that this a direct interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs. Syria stations about 20,000 troops in its western neighbor some claim that it is the kingmaker of Lebanese politics.
On the other hand, in a rare challenge to a fellow Arab state, foreign ministers of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) have urged Syria to respect the Security Council resolution of Sept. 2 that demanded besides the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon, the holding of presidential elections in the country.
‘The Council supports internationally legitimate resolutions, and )that includes ( the last decision issued by the Security Council, calling for the withdrawal of all forces from Lebanon,’ Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Mohammed Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah told reporters after Monday’s meeting in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
The GCC is a loose political and economic alliance comprising Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher also urged the 22-nation Arab League to support the UN resolution. ‘We must deal with this resolution because it will be unwise to ignore it,’ Muasher said Monday after arriving in Cairo to attend the two-day league meeting.
The Lebanese President of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, related the presence of Syrian troops to the Israeli presence in the Shba’a farms, south of Lebanon, by saying that his country needs Syrian troops and they would not leave until Israel complies with Security Council resolutions that require it to withdraw from land occupied since the 1967 Middle East war.
League ministers try to reach consensus in their biannual meetings and the word on Tuesday was that they would avoid the issue of Syrian troop withdrawal and agree on a final communiquÃƒÂ© that expressed support for Syrian-Lebanese relations.
The communiquÃƒÂ© was expected to disapprove of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. This U.S. law penalizes Syria for its military presence in Lebanon, its alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and for not doing more to stop fighters infiltrating into Iraq.
Some observers marginalized the Arab Foreign ministers backing of the resolution claiming that it is usual that the Arab Foreign ministers back UN resolutions.