Lebanon deal diplomatic coup for Qatar


Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, who took the lead role in brokering the deal as chairman of an Arab League mediation committee, spelled out the terms of the agreement.


It calls for the election of a president, formation of a unity government and for a new electoral law, as unveiled at the ceremony chaired by Qatar’s Emir, H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.


Qatari leaders basked in the glory of a feat that seemed almost impossible just a day earlier as they announced the agreement between rival Lebanese factions in Doha.


"We never doubted when we called for this inter-Lebanese dialogue in Doha that it would succeed," the Qatari ruler said.


Yet, the crisis talks were hanging in the balance until Tuesday, when the Qatari hosts set yesterday’s deadline for all parties to come on board.


It took all their powers of persuasion to ensure the success of what they apparently saw as a calculated risk.


"Qatar’s balanced regional and international relations helped a great deal in bringing about the accord," Qatari lawyer and former justice minister Najib Al Nuaimi said.


"I think the agreement was largely made possible by Qatar’s continuous contacts and coordination with Saudi Arabia during the talks" in Doha that ran for six days, he said.


Qatar’s ties with regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, which backs the Lebanese government, gradually thawed over the past few months after years of tensions.


Doha is a close ally of the United States, which also supports the majority camp in Beirut.


It has also long been on good terms with Iran and Syria, the two regional players which back the Lebanese opposition camp led by the Shiite militant movement Hezbollah.


While coaxing and pushing Lebanese rivals to bury the hatchet, Qatari leaders did not hesitate to work the phones with regional players, all of whom hailed the agreement, as did Washington.


The agreement was announced as Israel and Syria, the former powerbroker in Lebanon, confirmed that they have been engaged in Turkish-mediated indirect peace talks.


Qatar also has good relations with Hezbollah, which said its arsenal of weapons was not up for discussion in Doha.


But the government bloc insisted the deal should contain an undertaking not to use weapons in pursuit of political aims, after deadly clashes which saw Hezbollah and its Shia allies briefly seize parts of west Beirut this month.


In the event, the agreement banned any resort to arms to resolve political conflicts and called for the Lebanese state’s authority to be extended throughout the country.


Qatari officials were careful to share credit for the agreement with the Arab League, under whose auspices the talks took place, even though the pan-Arab body had for months failed to break the logjam in Lebanon.


The deal was "also a success for joint Arab action when goodwill is there," Qatari assistant foreign minister H E Mohammad Al Rumaihi said.


Qatar, which also has controversial political contacts with Israel, has tried to mediate in several regional conflicts, including an ongoing Zaidi Shia revolt against Yemen’s government.


"Qatar can now become a focal point in resolving inter-Arab conflicts, in which it has become skilled," political analyst Mohammed Al Misfer enthused. "This success has given Qatar regional and international weight."

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