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Siniora welcomes US and EU warming of relations with Syria


interview

Siniora welcomes US and EU warming of relations with Syria

In a few days the Arab summit will be held in Doha, and the campaign for Lebanon’s parliamentary election, on the 7th of June begins. It will be a decisive vote in Lebanese history, caught as the country is in a vortex of regional and international variables. euronews met Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in Beirut to talk about several issues,such as European-Lebanese relations, and the International Tribunal in charge of investigating the assassination of late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

euronews: “Prime minister, welcome to euronews. In a few days the Arab summit in Doha, Qatar opens, and following the appeal from King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia for pan-Arab reconciliation, do you think now is the time and place for that to happen?”

Fouad Siniora: “Any action that aims to strengthen Arab relations and iron out differences can only be beneficial. We cannot face up to our challenges, on the Palestinian question or on Israeli-Arab relations if we are divided. That’s even more obvious now we have to deal with a new hawkish government in Israel. When you think that the previous two governments were considered as doves, who knows what we’ll get from this new administration.”

euronews: “How do you see Europe’s policies towards Lebanon?”

Fouad Siniora: “The EU is keen to have good relations, just as Lebanon is. They are very important, as is our association agreement with the EU.”

euronews: “Right now the Americans and Europeans are warming their relations with Syria. Are you worried Lebanon will pay the price in one way or another for this?”

Fouad Siniora: “We believe this opening up towards Syria is important and we support it. But at the same time we want relations with Damascus to be based on trust and mutual respect. In other words, a relationship of equals. There has to be a real will to solve the unresolved problems that have hung over us for years. That is why we think that this change in tone between the US, Europe, and Syria doesn’t disturb us. On the contrary.”

euronews: “What do you think of the accusations levelled against Syria by the parliamentary majority to which you belong, concerning its role in the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri?”

Fouad Siniora: “We certainly can’t fire off unfounded accusations. We have to wait for the conclusions of the tribunal conducting the enquiry. We place our entire trust in it, and we will be satisfied with whatever decisions it comes to.”

euronews: “Do you think the tribunal will be able to bring the real guilty parties to trial?”

FS: “There are two main objectives. The first is, we have to know the truth, who committed the abominable crime that led to Hariri and his companion’s murder. The second is as important. By taking this case to an international tribunal we underline an opinion shared by all Lebanese, who no longer want their country to be a theatre of crimes committed with total impunity.”

euronews: “Some are going as far as to say that the tribunal is being manipulated, What do you say to them?”

Fouad Siniora: “It is a serious mistake to accuse the tribunal of being manipulated. I think it will do its job, and it is being closely watched. Its sessions are in public, and no-one can manipulate it or divert it from its chosen course.”

euronews: “How do you see Lebanese-Syrian relations, and how much do you think the “Cedar revolution” has been able to break Syrian hegemony over Lebanon?”

Fouad Siniora: “Lebanon is an Arab country, and Syria is a brother nation. We want a healthy relationship. We have achieved a lot in recent years, and Lebanon has ceaselessly reaffirmed its sovereignty without leaving the Arab fold.”

euronews: “We know that Iranian support for Lebanon flows through Hezbollah. How do you see Tehran’s role role in your country?”

Fouad Siniora: “Arabs need a relationship of equals with Iran. We don’t want to be involved in Iran’s internal affairs and, equally, we don’t want Iran to interfere with us. We have a responsibility, and Iran even more so, to ensure our relations are between two states, and not between a state and an organisation. I don’t think that is useful. Imagine that an Arab nation establishes relations with an Iranian organisation. How do you think Iran would feel about that? Would it accept it? I think not.”

euronews: “The Arab summit held in Beirut in 2002 saw the birth of an Arab peace initiative proposing land for peace in Israel. What is going to happen to this initiative now that the right and extreme right are in power there?”

Fouad Siniora: “This was an innovative and civilised approach to try and end the violence in the region, but it depends on Israel who, until then, could only dream of such an offer. But until now Israel has done nothing, whatever the government, hawks or doves, who have been in power. They need to seize this chance so that the initiative can revive and move forwards.”

euronews: “How much has the UN’s peacekeeping force been able to dissuade Israel on its Lebanese border, and how do you see its relations with Hezbollah?”

Fouad Siniora: “The UN’s peacekeepers are welcome in Lebanon and we believe they play a vital role in keeping the peace and protecting Lebanon. In co-operation with the Lebanese army they ensure security in the border zone south of the Litani river. We are following the developments very closely, and we would like to salute the serious and constructive collaboration between our army and the UN.”

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