As the Arab Summit concluded its proceedings in Beirut this week, the Council of Lebanese American Organizations had hoped that the Heads of State, Kings, Emirs, and Presidents of the Arab countries would acknowledge that Lebanon, a founding charter member of the Arab League, is today not a free and sovereign country. None of the tenets and promises of the 1989 Taef Agreement, which the Arab countries sponsored and signed, have been implemented: The Syrian Army continues its occupation of Lebanon and shows no intention of withdrawing; The Lebanese government hosting the Summit remains a puppet of the Syrian dictatorship; And the Lebanese people continue to endure the vicissitudes of occupation. Many Lebanese citizens languish in Syrian jails, the country's economy is decimated and its young people are emigrating at alarming rates. The much promised reconstruction has not been realized, and the country has all but disappeared from international forums as a free agent of its own destiny.
The Council fully supports the Lebanese people in their continued demands for an end to the Syrian occupation of their country and the rehabilitation of Lebanon as a free and sovereign nation. The Arab countries meeting in Beirut should have included on their agenda such pressing issues as the withdrawal of the Syrian Army and Syrian Intelligence Services from Lebanon as mandated by UN Resolution 520, the release of all Lebanese political prisoners from Syrian jails, the safe return of all political exiles and refugees to their homes, and the cessation of all Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs. Had the Arab Summit addressed these burning issues for the Lebanese people, the Arab countries would have gained a credibility they badly need with the international community to request the implementation of UN resolutions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
It is worthy to note that Syria and its puppet Lebanese regime attempted to force a hard line position on the summit, as the "accidental" failure of the translation system during Crown Prince Abdullah's speech clearly showed. As he was to make his much-awaited historic proposal for a peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict, the translation system failed. Officials at the Press Center in charge of translation explained to foreign reporters who requested a written translation: "you are not supposed to be hearing what he is saying"(1).
The Council urges the Arab countries to rise to the challenges of a world at war against terrorism and to come to terms with their failure at addressing such blatant violations of the Charter of the Arab League and the UN as the occupation of Lebanon by Syria. After decades of suffering, Lebanon could once again become the place of tolerance and coexistence between Islam and Christianity. It can only do that if it is free from war, oppression, occupation, and terrorism, all still imposed by Syria for the past 3 decades. Lebanon deserves no less than freedom and independence.
(1) Boston Globe newspiece, March 28, 2002.