Hezbollah chief warns region at “risk of split”

Hezbollah’s chief on Thursday warned that the region was at grave risk of “sectarian and tribal splits” as the conflict in Syria continues to spiral into deadlier violence.

“Lebanon and the region are going through a very difficult phase. There is a risk of partition in the region on sectarian or tribal bases,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said during a speech given on the occasion of Arbaeen, which marks the end of the forty-day mourning period of the death of Imam Hussein.

“We now underscore our refusal of any plan for partition or division. We confirm our attachment to the unity of Lebanon as a people, a nation and institutions.”

He also called for all of the Lebanon people to “safeguard national unity and security” in their country, while implicitly accusing the March 14 alliance of “implicating the Lebanese in Syria-linked violence.”

The Hezbollah chief also tackled the issue of the growing influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon, saying that he “objects to the politicization of the matter.”

“The displaced families should enjoy our support whether they are supporters or opponents of the regime in their country,” he added.

“We cannot as Lebanese close the border with Syria.”

Lebanon is facing difficulties dealing with the increasingly high number of refugees fleeing Syria’s violence, amid a split in its political landscape between supporters of the Syrian regime, represented by the March 8 alliance – spearheaded by Hezbollah – and forces associated with the Western-backed March 14 coalition.

The Lebanese government has repeatedly announced that it was dissociating itself from the events in neighboring Syria, while March 14 has condemned this stance and called on the authorities in Beirut to recognize the opposition Syrian National Coalition.

Syria is witnessing a violent uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has so far killed more than 60,000 people since its outbreak in March last year, according to figures released by the United Nations.

Nasrallah also called for concrete action by the Lebanese government to help secure the release of the Lebanese Shiite pilgrims held hostage in Syria, adding that “the state is not bearing up to its responsibilities.”

“Lebanon should pressure [Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar] to reach a solution, since they are implicated in arming and supporting groups inside Syria,” he said.

In May, 11 Shiite pilgrims were abducted in Syria’s Aleppo while returning from a pilgrimage in Iran. Two of the kidnapped pilgrims – Awad Ibrahim and Hussein Ali Omar – were released in past months.

Nasrallah turned to the issue of oil exploration in Lebanon, a week after the Lebanese cabinet approved the regulatory decrees of the oil sector committee tasked with managing exploration efforts off the Mediterranean shore.

“We hope that this blessing doesn’t turn into a curse, since some analysts say that the underlying cause of what is happening in the region are the oil resources.”

He also called for a “national strategy” to protect the country’s oil resources and voiced the readiness of his party to abide by the constraints of such a strategy.

“The Resistance is prepared to meet any requirements that this national strategy might impose on it.”

“Lebanon should pressure [Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar] to reach a solution, since they are implicated in arming and supporting groups inside Syria,” he said.