BEIRUT: Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun on Friday reaffirmed his country’s position on the Palestinian cause during a meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the political bureau of Hamas.
Aoun expressed “the right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state on all their national territory, with Jerusalem as its capital,” and stressed Palestinian refugees’ right to return home.
“Palestinians’ resistance to occupation is not terrorism,” Aoun said, adding that “no one can imagine Jerusalem without the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other holy sites,” and stressing the need “to preserve Jerusalem, where Christianity, Islam and Judaism meet.”
After the meeting, Haniyeh said: “The Israeli occupation does not differentiate between a Muslim and a Christian in Palestine, especially in Jerusalem.
“Hamas stands in solidarity with Lebanon and condemns the Israeli enemy’s attempt to steal from Lebanon’s maritime resources.”
He added that he wished Lebanon “security, stability and more solidarity.”
Haniyeh’s visit to Lebanon is his third in two years and coincided with World Refugee Day. On his first visit, he said: “Our missiles will be launched from our land (targeting Israel) and we will not involve Lebanon.”
Raafat Murra, a Hamas official, said Haniyeh’s visit to Beirut “highlights the need to resolve the crisis of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.”
Haniyeh’s office said one of the aims of the trip was “addressing the reality of the Palestinian cause and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon” as well as “consulting and cooperating with the Palestinian factions’ officials, in a way that serves the Palestinian cause.”
A Palestine Liberation Organization official in Lebanon, who chose to remain anonymous, told Arab News that “the PLO and Fatah are not involved with Haniyeh’s visit to Lebanon. This visit is part of the special program between Hamas and Hezbollah.”
During his time in Lebanon, Haniyeh also visited Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
Hezbollah said that “Haniyeh and Nasrallah underlined the importance of cooperation between the Axis of Resistance to serve the central goal, which is concerned with Jerusalem, holy sites and the Palestinian cause.”
The PLO official said that Hezbollah was “trying to solve the problems between Hamas and the Syrian regime.”
Asked about a Hamas announcement that Haniyeh’s visit to Lebanon was related to the Palestinian refugee camps, he said the refugees had their own authority — the PLO — and that Lebanon recognized the independent state of Palestine and deals with it to address all issues facing the camps.