Russia, Saudi concerned at Lebanon violence
Published Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Russia and Saudi Arabia – at sharp odds over the Syrian crisis – each warned on Wednesday against the escalation of violence in Lebanon following clashes last week in the capital Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli.
Russia said there was a "real threat" of violence from Syria spilling over to Lebanon, calling on all parties to avoid fresh unrest at all costs.
"There is a real threat of the conflict spilling over to Lebanon, where, considering history, the ethnic and religious makeup of the population, and the principles on which Lebanon's government is based, everything can have a very bad ending," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah echoed the call for calm, urging Lebanese authorities to defuse the situation and prevent the country from being engulfed in the Syrian crisis.
"Saudi Arabia is deeply concerned and is following up on the recent developments of Tripoli events, especially the targeting of a main sect in the country's social fabric," Saudi state news agency SPA citied King Abdullah as saying in a letter to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.
"Due to the gravity of the crisis and the possibility of it causing a sectarian strife in Lebanon and bringing it back to the shadow of the civil war, we are looking to your... attempts to interfere to end the crisis... and keeping Lebanon away from foreign struggles especially with the Syrian crisis nearby."
Saudi Arabia is the prime supporter of Sunni factions in Lebanon, and has previously been accused of arming radical Salafis in the country, as well as Islamist rebels in Syria.
Salafis clashed with the Lebanese Army in Tripoli last week, as well as local Alawis – supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, also an Alawi.
Lavrov stressed the need to avoid sectarian conflict in Lebanon, a country home to a plethora of religious minorities with no outstanding majority.
"It is especially tragic that the conflicts between Shia and Sunnis begin to be exposed and artificially aggravated," Lavrov added in televised remarks.
"This is a most dangerous development of events which must be avoided at all costs."
The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have urged their citizens to stay away from Lebanon – a favourite destination for wealthy Gulf tourists – citing security concerns in the country.
Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon last month warned Saudis to stay away from Lebanon's border areas, after two Saudi citizens were kidnapped and tortured for eight days, before being freed in a joint Saudi-Lebanese operation.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)