Turkey, Saudi urge Lebanese to preserve government
Jan 13, 2011 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Jan 13, 2011 12:00 am
Turkey and Saudi Arabia urged Lebanon Wednesday to keep its unity government intact after Hezbollah and its allies threatened to walk out over a UN probe into the killing of former premier Rafiq Hariri.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal warned that the prospect of political instability posed "a great danger" for Lebanon and the region.
"If the resignations materialise, if there is a split... this may lead to a conflict... And this poses a great danger... Lebanon may face the problems it faced before and this will affect the countries in the region," he said through an interpreter.
"We wish that those resignations do not happen," he said, speaking at a joint news conference with Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.
Lebanon's Health Minister Mohamad Jawad Khalifeh, whose Amal party is allied with Hezbollah, said earlier that 11 ministers would resign Wednesday unless the cabinet convenes to discuss a long-running standoff over the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
Davutoglu backed a Saudi-Syrian initiative to prevent a crisis and said Turkey was ready to help the hard-won unity government in Beirut to survive.
"The essential effort at the moment is aimed at preventing the escalation of tensions and ensuring that the initiative of Saudi Arabia and Syria succeeds," he said.
Davutoglu said Ankara had been in touch with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain former premier, and Syrian leaders to discuss the situation.
The Shiite Hezbollah and its allies have for months been pressing the prime minister to disavow the STL on grounds it is part of a US-Israeli plot.
According to unconfirmed press reports, the STL is set to indict senior Hezbollah members in connection with Rafiq Hariri's 2005 assassination.
The standoff between Hariri's camp and Hezbollah has paralysed the government for months and sparked concerns of sectarian violence similar to the one that brought the country close to civil war in May 2008.