The Socialist International Mediterranean Committee met in Beirut on 25-26 April 2008 hosted by Lebanese SI-member, the Progressive Socialist Party, PSP. Addressing the Committee in the opening session were Luis Ayala, SI Secretary General, Walid Jumblatt, leader of the PSP, and Fares Soueid, Secretary General of the March 14 Movement.
The Committee’s discussions centred first of all on the situation in Lebanon, continuing the International’s focus on developments in that country, under the theme “Working together for a united, democratic and stable Lebanon: the contribution of the international community”. The party representatives attending the meeting expressed deep concern about the current institutional crisis affecting Lebanon following the continuing failure of Parliament over the last eighteen months to agree on the election of a new President and the fact that Parliament in the present circumstances is not functioning. The Committee members pointed to the need for all the Lebanese political forces to respect the constitutional process and the democratic rules; to the importance of keeping alive dialogue and thus moving forward the political process; to achieve the implementation of the unanimously adopted national dialogue resolutions, particularly those related to Lebanese-Syrian relations, including the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states, and the delineation and demarcation of the borders between the two countries. While noting the third anniversary of the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, the members of the Committee stressed the need of the international community to see a Lebanon in peace, united, sovereign and independent as a prerequisite for stability in the region which should not be based either on violence or on external intimidation or destabilisation. Equally, a call was made to respect the Taef Agreements, and in favour of the implementation of the Arab League’s recommendations and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations. Specific mention was made of the need to rapidly commence the activities of the International Tribunal for Lebanon established by the UN to address the outstanding cases of political assassinations in that country.
With regard to peace and stability in the region as a whole, participants underlined that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was crucial, for which the Committee appealed that the Annapolis agreements be implemented without delay. Negotiations for a lasting peace should be based on a two-state solution. The Committee called for the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza to be addressed with urgency, for the restoration there of the legitimate political institutions of the Palestinian Authority, for an immediate end to the Israeli attacks and bombings in Gaza which have resulted in hundreds of deaths, and for the rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel to stop.
As part of the Committee’s agenda, participants also examined major issues of concern to the Mediterranean, with the themes: “Which way forward for the Mediterranean region? Building on the Barcelona Process for greater integration and cooperation” and “Promoting Peace and Democracy in the Mediterranean Basin: Deepening intercultural understanding within and between nations”. Participants expressed their hope that the Union for the Mediterranean would be a reinforcement of the Barcelona Process, with the participation of all the EU member states and the non-EU Mediterranean coastal states, that the new European Neighbourhood Policy would maintain a multilateral approach in the relationship between the Northern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and that democracy and peace would be at the centre of this process. Also addressed by the Committee were issues relating to the region’s particular vulnerability to climate change and the initiatives taken to date such as the Mediterranean Hot Spot Investment Programme and the Horizon 2020 initiative, as well as issues of migration and the fight against illegal immigration and related mafias. The UN Alliance of Civilisations was welcomed as a useful initiative, particularly in the context of the Mediterranean.
The Committee also received reports from participants on the national situation in countries of the region. With regard to latest developments in the Mediterranean, the Committee welcomed the renewed talks in Cyprus between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders in the framework of the UN and its decisions to prepare the future negotiations for a reunified island and declared that it remained committed to contribute to that process.
The Committee adopted the Declaration of Beirut which reflects the outcome of its discussions.
On the eve of the meeting, on 24 April, members of the Committee had the opportunity to meet with the Maronite Patriarch, His Eminence Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir; Prime Minister Fouad Siniora; and Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri.
The day after the meeting, in a press conference held in Beirut with Karim Pakzad, the delegate of the French Socialist Party to the SI meeting, Walid Jumblatt on behalf of the host party and Luis Ayala on behalf of the Socialist International, denounced and protested publicly against the forced abduction and detention for five hours of Pakzad the previous afternoon by members of Hezbollah. They once again pointed to the need to ensure that law and order reign in Lebanon, for which full support must be given to strengthen the legitimate institutions of the country, including the national government, the armed forces and the police force.