Lebanon: An Important Step Towards Building Confidence

  • 10 September 2008

The "Tripoli Reconciliation Agreement" signed last Monday between Sunni and Alawite leaders in the northern Lebanese city is an important step toward a wider reconciliation process. It halted a period of conflict and confrontation that killed 22 people since last June and was an essential document for ending the sectarian and political tension that has gripped the country for a long time.

What gives this document special significance is that it was signed after months of bloody confrontations that took on a sectarian character and during which internal and external complications dangerously interlocked in such a way that threatened of a wider sectarian conflict. This is what prompted political and religious leaders in the country to try to control the situation. An additional significance comes from the fact that the document was a Lebanese effort in which various domestic players had a role, a fact that indicates that, with good will, the Lebanese are capable of solving the most sensitive and complicated issues facing them.

Last May's "Doha Agreement" was able to defuse the political and security crisis and to revive the country's political and constitutional institutions. But the scene is still rife with elements of sectarian, religious, political, and geographic tension that require a major effort to control them and prevent them from escalating. The long period of confrontation in Lebanon has created deep fissures between its communities and forces that need much work to repair and overcome for the sake of the country's security, stability, and political and cultural diversity. Many, thus, are hopeful that the Tripoli agreement will become an example for similar reconciliation in other areas that still suffer from remnants of crises and have not yet been able to shed obvious sectarian tensions, especially in the capital of Beirut.

Signing the Tripoli agreement is a major accomplishment for Lebanon. But what's more important is a commitment to it on the ground and implementing its provisions with good will and sincerity in order to overcome conflicts. Devising solutions and signing documents should not be the goal; instead, emphasis on implementing and respecting them should.

Lebanon is in need of building confidence shaken between its confessions and forces because of political tensions. Absent that, all political agreements and understandings, whatever their importance and value, are useless. But this confidence should be built upon many foundations, most important of which is a Lebanese state with constitutional institutions that is the only and essential resort for all Lebanese.

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