Honorable Dr Kofi Annan
United Nations Organization
New York, N.Y.
Dear Secretary Annan
On behalf of the World Maronite Union (WMU) and its various national chapters around the world, including the American Maronite Union (AMU) we would like to submit the following memorandum to you:
The World Maronite Union is a non-governmental organization which seeks the representation of the ethnic, cultural and political aspirations of the Maronite Diaspora. The Maronites, from Aramaic- Syriac descent, who originated in the Levant as of the 5th AD century have formed a native independent homeland in Lebanon since the 7th century AD. The Maronites were, along with other Christian, Druse and Muslim communities at the origin of the formation of modern Lebanon in 1920.
Lebanon's attachment to the United Nations was embodied by a long history of commitment and participation. In 1945, Lebanon was among the founders. In 1948, Dr Charles Malik was among the writers of the International Declaration of Human Rights. Dr Malik was subsequently elected as a President of the UN General Assembly in the 1950s.
Unfortunately, our mother country was submitted to a destructive war, and our ethno-religious community, the Maronites and Lebanese Christians were particularly targeted by radical factions since 1975. As of June 1976, the Syrian Army has occupied Lebanon. It had entered the country unilaterally (according to the late President Assad's speech in July 1976) before it was mandated under the Arab League as of December 1976. And despite the mandate, it clashed with the Lebanese Army and Lebanese Christian population between 1977 and 1982. In 1978, the Security Council issued resolution 436 recognizing that Syrian forces have been involved in shelling and fighting with local Lebanese populations. In September of 1982, United Nations resolution 520 called on all foreign forces, including Syria, to withdraw from Lebanon. Instead, Syria recaptured the areas it had pulled out from. In 1990, its forces entered the Christian free enclave and completed the control of the Lebanese Government. The Taif agreement, signed in 1989, has stipulated for Syria to withdraw by 1992. Instead, its forces remained in the country till 2001. Besides, all main Human Rights organizations reports over the decade, have found Syrian forces guilty of Human Rights abuses between 1991 and 2001.
Civil Society's opposition
On another hand, the civil society in Lebanon has expressed its rejection of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. The Patriarch of the Maronites, its Council of Bishops, the main Christian parties, a main Druse leader, as well as many Sunni and Shiite activists, have openly criticized the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and called for its withdrawal. After his visit to the one million and a half strong Lebanese American community, Patriarch Sfeir was greeted by more then two hundred thousands demonstrators. This indicates clearly, that the Lebanese populations are opposed to the presence of the Syrian forces, even though if the pro-Syrian factions, including Hizbollah, have called for the continuation of the occupation for political motives.
The most recent CNN poll indicated that 94% of the Lebanese in the mother country and in the US calls for Syrian withdrawal. (Document enclosed).
In a letter to the US Secretary of State, a Maronite academic Dr. Walid
Phares said: "The popular demand for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, either
according to the Taif Agreement or even according to plain international law,
has become a widely legitimate claim that the international community cannot
avoid addressing anymore. The United States Government, one of the guarantors of
the Taif Agreement and the leading international force in defending democratic
rights around the world must address the situation with seriousness and
responsibility (...) All media reports on Lebanon's political developments are
noticing increasing demands by Lebanese civilian communities for an immediate
and full withdrawal of the Syrian occupation Army from Lebanon. Those demands
have been raised by the Maronite Patriarch-Cardinal and the Council of Maronite
Bishops, acclaimed by the Lebanese American community and hailed by more then
two hundred thousand demonstrators who were greeting the Cardinal's return.
Moreover, Druse leader Walid Joumblat, a number of Muslim intellectuals as well
as political parties from conservative, liberal and left wing persuasions have
expressed a similar desire to see the Syrian forces pulling out from some areas
of Lebanon, as a first step." (Enclosed)
Reports from Lebanon, which are certainly available to you, are projecting an escalation of tensions. Lebanon's civil society, its national Church, its student movement, parishes and the Human Rights protesters from various religious communities are organizing street demonstrations and rallies, to express their opposition to the military presence of the Syrians in their homeland, by democratic means.
Unfortunately, I am sad to report that according to the same media sources, radical fundamentalist organizations, pro-Syrian groups and the pro-Iranian militia Hizbollah, have openly declared that they are going to use violence against (the mostly Christian) peaceful demonstrators. Reports from inside Lebanon have indicated that attacks by pro-Syrian militiamen against Lebanese opposing the Syrian occupation will take place. More alarming reports are projecting sectarian attacks against Christian civilians and neighborhoods in retaliation against the anti-Syrian protest movement.
East Timor Precedent
This dramatic situation reminds us of the East Timor crisis when pro- Indonesian militias persecuted and in some cases massacred pro- Independence demonstrators. The international community must act preventively in Lebanon to avoid an explosion of tensions and possible bloodshed.
At this stage, and in the absence of a discussion of the Lebanese crisis at the United Nations, and knowing that the Lebanese Government is influenced and in most cases dominated by Syrian power, it is recommendable that the international community would pressure Syrian to withdraw from all areas in Lebanon where those forces are not welcomed and accepted. At this stage, a rapid withdrawal of the Syrians from the Christian and Druse areas, and the international Airport is the only rational way to avoid an explosion.
The Lebanese Army, which is omnipresent in all the areas indicated above, and to be potentially evacuated by the Syrians, has enough resources to maintain order and stability. In few words, the Lebanese Army should take sole responsibility in the areas protesting against Syrian military presence, and the Syrian Army would redeploy temporarily into the areas dominated by the radical fundamentalists assisted by Lebanese regular troops. We suggest the International Community would send observers to report on the situation in the days to come.
Sheikh Sami el-Khoury
World Maronite Union
Former Consul General
Mr Atef Harb
American Maronite Union
Ambassador James Cunningham
United States Representative to the UN
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte
France Representative to the UN
Ambassador Sir Jeremy Q. Greenstock
United Kingdom o\f Great Britian & Northern Island Representative to the UN
Ambassador Sergey Lavrov
Permanent Representative of Russian Federation to the UN
Ambassador Wang Yingfan
Permanent Representative of China to the UN