In a wide-ranging interview with euronews, the Lebanese Prime Minister discussed relations with Israel and Syria, the UN inquiry into the murder of his father, as well as internal politics. euronews journalist Hussein Ibrahim spoke to Saad al-Hariri.
euronews: Some Lebanese politicians are calling for the creation of a commission whose main task would be to find a mechanism aimed at abolishing political sectarianism. To what extent do you think that could be possible?
Saad al-Hariri: It’s well known that there is a lot of controversy surrounding this issue, even if the Lebanese constitution contains an article regarding this. We’ve just come out of a period of big division, and we managed to form a government of national unity that has the obligation to accomplish many tasks. This is our priority. Then we can tackle the other pending issues stipulated in the Taëf Accord.
euronews: Recently you visited Syria. What are the main achievements of this visit for the two countries?
Saad al-Hariri: We’ve opened a new chapter with Syria. We are rebuilding confidence between the two countries. Everyone knows that bilateral ties were almost broken over the past five years. Now we have a new relationship based on the mutual interests of our two peoples. And this relationship will be reflected in economic, commercial and security cooperation, as well as in other issues such as the re-drawing of borders and everything that is in the interest of the two countries.
euronews: What will relations be like in the future if an international court declares Syria guilty … ?
Saad al-Hariri: … it is a possibility. As I have already told you, we intend to respect the tribunal’s conclusions. I don’t think I can answer this question now or comment on what might happen. But what I just said is very important. We are going to respect the tribunal’s judgements.
euronews: Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted recently that Hezbollah was behind the assassination of your father. What do you think about this accusation?
Saad al-Hariri: He should go to an international court to make his representations. But I think because of the mass killings carried out by Israel, it’s better he should go behind bars without trial.
euronews: We’ve witnessed a couple of Israeli threats to wage war against Syria and Lebanon. To what extent are these threats credible?
Saad al-Hariri: We should take these threats seriously. But this doesn’t mean that war is about to start. We should also warn the international community against Israeli threats which must be taken into consideration. We’ve carried out a series of talks with Arab countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel in order to exert pressure on the Israeli government.
euronews: Did you get any sort of guarantee from Arab countries such as Egypt?
Saad al-Hariri: Most of these countries promised that they will do their best to put pressure on the Israeli government. Efforts are still ongoing.
Besides that, we regularly tackle this issue with the Lebanese President Suleiman, in order to cope with these threats and thwart any Israeli temptation to wage war against our country.
euronews: But don’t you think that an armed Hezbollah is the most important excuse for war?
Saad al-Hariri: Israel keeps threatening us, whereas Arab countries voice their attachment to peace. Israel talks about war, and increases its war rhetoric. While there are coutries such as Lebanon and Syria who pledge their willingness to implement UN resolution number 1701. Israel
rejects any talks with Syria unless they are carried out under conditions that are uncceptable to Syria and other Arab countries. Israel doesn’t care about the Arab Initiative based on “land for peace”. So could you tell me now: who rejects peace?
euronews :Could we see Lebanon one day negotiating indirectly with Israel, as was the case with Syria under Turkish mediation.
Saad al-Hariri: We abide by the Arab Initiative …
euronews: But the Arab nitiative dies and is revived many times a year. Do you really think that this initiative still has any future?
Saad al-Hariri: Yes, we do. Do you know why? Because when the Arabs met in Beirut in 2002 and launched the Arab Peace Initiative, which has been adopted by the Organisation of Islamic Conference, do you know what this means? It means that more than a billion Muslims and around 70 Islamic countries showed that they are keen to make peace under the provisions of this initiative. So who is refusing peace? We have to highlight this issue. Today Israel builds small blocks of settlements. Will these settlements result in peace in the region? Israel seizes every opportunity to thwart peace with 70 Islamic countries. Where is the Israeli logic? Where is the international community? What does it offer in this regard? Today, if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has before him a political document calling for the two-state solution: Israeli and Palestinian states, with east Jerusalem as capital, and the right of return of refugees, as well as the recovery of all land occupied in 1967. I can assure you that despite the internal Palestinian divisions, the Palestinian President can sign this document and submit these proposals to a national referendum. And I am sure that he will win. But do you know where the real problem is? The problem is that we don’t have any Israeli government capable of adopting such a document. The division is within Israel itself.