Lebanese PM calls for permanent ceasefire with Israel
Saad Hariri urges UN to help reach long-term calm with Jewish state on his country’s southern border
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri urged the UN Friday to help his country reach a permanent ceasefire with Israel, Reuters reported.
“I urge the UN secretary-general to support efforts to secure, as soon as possible, a state of permanent ceasefire. This is long overdue and my government is committed to move this agenda forward,” Hariri said.
Hariri made the comments during a visit to south Lebanon, a day after Hezbollah organized a tour for journalists along the Lebanon-Israel border.
The Lebanese leader criticized the media tour organized by Hezbollah during which armed gunmen from the group appeared in a UN-created border buffer zone meant to be free of Hezbollah presence, calling it “unacceptable in our opinion.”
The Hezbollah tour, intended to show journalists defensive measures taken by Israel along the border in the past year, was also criticized by other opponents of the Iranian-backed group as a provocation and a violation of a 2006 UN Security Council resolution that created the buffer zone.
Hariri, on his visit Friday, met with United Nations peacekeepers stationed in the area and renewed Lebanon’s commitment to international resolutions.
“What happened yesterday is something that we, as a government, are not (involved) with and do not accept,” Hariri said. He struck a conciliatory tone, however, saying “there are political differences (with Hezbollah) that we put aside, and this is one of them.”
“I came here to emphasize that our role as a government is to preserve Resolution 1701,” Hariri said.
Thursday’s tour sought to paint Israel as afraid of a new conflict, while depicting Hezbollah as ready for war despite having committed thousands of its fighters to bolstering Syria’s President Bashar Assad.
While taking queries from the journalists, a Hezbollah officer refused to answer questions about a possible next war with Israel or about the terror organization itself.
During the tour, Hezbollah detailed the Jewish state’s new defenses and claimed that Israel had switched to a “defensive” doctrine for the first time in its history. In a clip aired on LBC, one of its officers is seen showing familiarity with Israeli northern towns and with Israeli military units operating in the area and their chain of command.
While eager to discuss the measures they say Israel has been taking, Hezbollah officials refused to be drawn on their own preparations for war, beyond insisting on their ability to fight if one comes.
Some analysts believe Hezbollah would be hard-pressed to fight on two fronts, Syria and Israel, but others note the group’s combatants have also gained new experience during years of battle in the Syrian conflict.
Dov Lieber and agencies contributed to this report.