On March 25-26, Lebanese President Michel Aoun paid his first official visit to Moscow in order to discuss the relations between the countries and the situation in the Middle East. Recently, another thing happened that could aggravate it: the United States recognised the disputed Golan Heights as Israel’s territory. Valdaiclub.com spoke in an interview with Amal Abou Zeid, a former Lebanese member of parliament, about these and other issues.
The visit of the President Michel Aoun to Moscow should be considered a success, because he was very much satisfied with its results and with the points that were discussed with Russian business executives, Metropolitan Ilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church, with the Duma, and finally, with President Vladimir Putin. Aoun’s positive reception underscores that Russo-Lebanese relations are grounded in mutual understanding, and Lebanon is very appreciative of Russia’s engagement in Middle Eastern affairs, just as it appreciates Moscow’s cooperation with international organisations such as the United Nations. Due to the Russian presence in Syria, Lebanon understands that Russia played a vital role in bringing peace to the region, restoring order and defeating armed terrorist groups vying to take control, whether in Syria or elsewhere. At the international level, Lebanon will coordinate more with Russia in order to improve the dialogue on resolving the political issues affecting the region.
Recently, another problem was added to this list, when President Donald Trump recognised the Golan Heights as part of Israel. Lebanon considers this move illegal, as it lacks legal grounds. As everybody knows, the United Nations considers the Golan Heights occupied Syrian territory. Washington’s move was a unilateral declaration of its contempt towards Syria, international law and even the international community. What has happened could lead to war and increase the intensity of existing crises in the Middle East, so nobody knows how things will develop in the near future. It will serve as another factor in the Israel-Palestine conflict as well. At the moment, Lebanon wants to draw the attention of the international community to the fact that when the people of the Golan Height voted on if they wanted the region to be annexed by Israel, about 80% of them said no. How can we afford for such things to happen to people without taking their decisions into account? The US decision will definitely jeopardise peace in the region and in the adjacent countries. Lebanon will protest against it, and its Foreign Minister intends to write a letter to the UN Security Council demanding that it stop the move.
This will have a negative impact on the Syrian settlement as well, because Syria remains restive. There are still terrorist groups and foreign troops like the US army which remain there without the consent of the country’s government. So there will be a negative response from the Syrian government. There will be countermeasures from their side, and most probably countermeasures from the Arab League, which on March 30-31, will hold a summit in Tunisia. I hope they will condemn the American decision. It is unlikely that these countermeasures will take the form of military activity, because from a diplomatic point of view, we understand that the UN resolutions support Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. There was a discussion about the Syrian government and the United Nations regarding the Golan Heights. If diplomacy does not work, no one knows what will be the end of it, and whether there will be skirmishes or military activity. If that happens, it will definitely endanger the situation in the region.