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The President Onboard the King's Private Plane - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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We spent three non-stop days as part of the delegation accompanying Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz; staying overnight in Sharm El Sheikh before travelling to Syria. On Friday, there was breakfast in Damascus, Lunch in Beirut, and dinner in Jordan; it is only a short distance between these important capital cities, however the issues [between them] makes one feel as if they are separated by huge oceans.

However the most prominent and historical event was the arrival of the Saudi King’s royal jet– with the Syrian President on board – at Beirut airport; a contrasting scene that has many implications. There were many people who supported this, and just as many who were skeptical or – let us say – rejected this, and this is not just those who are far away from our region. However the Saudi initiative that was led by King Abdullah towards the Syrian – Lebanese file, and also the inter-Lebanese file, was extremely important, and this had immediate as well as long-term effects.

The immediate effect was to grant the ailing Lebanon an important dose of reassurance and Arab backing, namely [acknowledging] the necessity of protecting Lebanese unity. This important Saudi Arabian inspired dose of reassurance means that Riyadh and Damascus agree upon Lebanon’s unity and integrity, and the necessity of Lebanon appealing to legitimate authorities in the event of any dispute. The Syrian President’s arrival [in Lebanon] on board the Saudi royal plane means that Lebanon is a completely sovereign country in the presence of Syria, and that Saudi Arabia is a witness to this, and that this has been agreed upon and is the subject of consensus.

There is one important point here, of course, and that is the special international tribunal into the assassination of Rafik Hariri, and the expected decision that Hezbollah has warned against. At the same time that the majority of the Lebanese people – with all of their different [political] inclinations – welcomed the Saudi – Syrian rapprochement with Lebanon, we find that the only group that are preoccupied by this is Hezbollah, as those affiliated to the group – whether they are media figures or politicians – in addition to Iran, are trying to simultaneously reassure themselves and confuse [others], claiming that the Saudi – Syrian rapprochement will ensure that Hezbollah has a way out in the event of its members being accused of Rafik Hariri’s assassination. This is what those affiliated to Hezbollah began to circulate following the Saudi monarch’s meeting with the Syrian President in Damascus; however we are aware that this is an international tribunal, not a [local] council of elders and efforts for mediation.

Therefore the arrival of the Saudi monarch in Beirut accompanied by the Syrian President was an important message to Lebanon and the Lebanese – rather than to one group against the others – that the two countries support Lebanese stability, as well as Lebanon’s prime minister, and that any dispute should be solved in accordance with legitimate means. It is well known that the international tribunal is legitimate, and in the event of it issuing the expected decisions accusing Hezbollah – or those affiliated to this group (which in itself is a linguistic abstraction, particularly as a senior Lebanese official in Beirut informed me that “the Arabic language is rich, and we are not unable of description in dealing with the tribunal”) – we would say “Hezbollah has been accused [of Hariri’s assassination], and Syria has been acquitted, this weakens the argument that the tribunal was politicized.

For how could the tribunal be politicized and acquit Damascus, especially as we noticed that along with the cautious French reaction to this (which is something that we will discuss tomorrow), Washington was acting as if it was trying to destroy the Saudi – Syrian meeting in Damascus? This is something that does not make sense, and is incorrect of course.

Therefore, what King Abdullah did, along with the Syrian president, was attempt to stop Lebanon’s decline, and it is up to Hezbollah to face up to its fate! For however Hezbollah try to circumvent the international tribunal, there is still the most difficult task, which is [convincing] the court of Lebanese public opinion that knows Hezbollah well, and recalls its actions, including the Beirut coup.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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