Kerry on Hariri Anniversary: No Justification for Retention of Arms by a Militia that Answers to Damascus, Tehran
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday stressed that there is no “justification” for the retention of arms by Hizbullah, as he urged Lebanon's leaders to elect a new president through local efforts.
“Make no mistake: there is no justification for the retention of arms by a militia or terrorist group that answers -- not to the Lebanese people -- but to foreign governments in Damascus and Tehran,” Kerry said in a message commemorating the tenth anniversary of former premier Rafik Hariri's assassination, in an apparent reference to Hizbullah.
Hizbullah has sent around 5,000 fighters into neighboring Syria to bolster its regime against an Islamist-led uprising. The party argues that its military intervention was necessary to fend off the threat that Syria-based jihadist groups pose to Lebanon.
Noting that no challenge is “more perilous” to Lebanon’s security than “the rise of violent extremism throughout the region,” Kerry noted that Washington remains committed to “helping the Lebanese Armed Forces meet this challenge, because they alone have the legitimacy to defend their country’s borders and protect their citizens.”
Turning to the presidential crisis, the top U.S. diplomat pointed out that while the election of a president will not “fully resolve” the challenges Lebanon is facing, it will be “an essential step in the right direction.”
“I urge Lebanon’s leaders not to look outside of their country for a resolution to the presidential gridlock, but instead to find a solution from within,” Kerry added.
“Rafik Hariri, known to many as 'Mr. Lebanon,' was guided by his vision of a stable, sovereign, and prosperous homeland,” the U.S. official noted.
“He spent his life working to make Lebanon more democratic, more free, more prosperous, and more secure – for all its people. Ten years ago today, he was assassinated because some feared he might succeed,” added Kerry.
While remarking that “justice for that crime has not been served,” Kerry underlined that the United States “stands with the Lebanese people and the international community in supporting the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and demanding that the murderers of Rafik Hariri be held accountable.”
“We also recognize the need to focus – not only on justice for the cowardly crimes of the past – but on Lebanon’s future – on honoring the legacy that Hariri left behind,” he went on to say.
Hariri was assassinated in a massive bombing that targeted his convoy in central Beirut on February 14, 2005.
The U.N.-backed STL is trying five Hizbullah members in absentia over their alleged involvement in the murder.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has dismissed the court as a U.S.-Israeli scheme and vowed that the accused will never be found.
On behalf of U.S. President Barack Obama, Kerry reiterated his country's support for “the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, the Baabda Declaration, and Lebanon’s dissociation policy from foreign conflicts.”