News / Middle East

Lebanon Prelates Urge End to Syrian Weapons Sales

This photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), an anti-Bashar Assad activist group, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian men carrying a covered dead body after a government airstrike attack in the al-Mayssar neighborhood, in Aleppo, April 3, 2014.
This photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), an anti-Bashar Assad activist group, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian men carrying a covered dead body after a government airstrike attack in the al-Mayssar neighborhood, in Aleppo, April 3, 2014.
Lisa Schlein
A high-level Christian delegation from Lebanon is calling for nations to stop selling arms to the warring factions in Syria.  The prelates say these weapons are fueling the war and impeding peace efforts. 

A high-ranking delegation of Maronite prelates from Lebanon is at the United Nations in Geneva to press its case for peace in the Middle East, and in particular for Syria.  

Archibishop Paul Sayah, who is Vicar-General to the Patriarch in Lebanon, said the war in Syria would stop when everybody stops selling arms to those who are fighting.

He told VOA those who were supplying weapons had no thought for the suffering and misery endured by the civilian population.  He said their interest was for political or economic gain and this was unacceptable.

“They should stop supplying arms to everybody and then people will come and sit together and talk peace.  As long as they are fed with arms and political support and money, people will continue.  It is good business for everybody ... As long as Assad thinks he is going to win, he is not going to stop.  If the others think they are going to win, they will never stop.  But they will know once those who are supplying the arms stop supplying the arms, that eventually they will have to stop,” he said.  

Archbishop Sayah said the delegation, which was led by His Beatitude Cardinal Bechara, held a somewhat depressing meeting with U.N. Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.  He said the U.N. mediator felt disillusioned and saw no way forward in the peace process at the moment.

“It looks like he is not going to be there for very long either ... I am sure somebody else will have to pick up.  The problem is start again, go back to square one, and this is a waste of time, this is a waste of lives,” he said.  

More than 130,000 people reportedly have been killed during the past three years of civil war in Syria.  Around nine million have been displaced in, and outside, the country.  Lebanon, which is a much smaller country than Syria, recently registered its one-millionth refugee.

Archbishop Sayah said this huge number of refugees was placing an intolerable burden upon the political, social, and economic wellbeing of Lebanon.  He said the refugees also were causing security concerns.  

“The way things are at the moment, all those people are scattered all over the place in among the population.  They take the jobs of the Lebanese.  They are now causing a lot of security problems.  You know, with kidnappings, with murder, with all sorts of violence because those people are hungry.  They kidnap somebody and they ask for money.  Why?  They simply are hungry.  I am not condoning this, but that is the situation,” he said.  

The archbishop said he and his fellow prelates supported the Lebanese government’s proposition that refugee camps for Syrians should be established either in safe areas inside Syria or in the no-man’s land between Syria and Lebanon.

Under this plan, he said the United Nations would provide security for the camps and the U.N. refugee agency and other humanitarian organizations would provide relief supplies to the refugees.

He said the delegation has discussed this proposal with the U.N. Director and other officials in Geneva.  But, as of now, he said, the delegation has not received a definite response as to whether the United Nations will or will not subscribe to this plan.

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