Palestinian leader: Factions committed to Lebanon's security

By Associated Press 24 February 2017, 12:00AM

BEIRUT (AP) — Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas began a three-day visit to Beirut on Thursday, saying Palestinian factions are committed to preserving security in refugee camps around Lebanon.

Abbas arrived in the afternoon in the first visit to Lebanon by a president since President Michel Aoun was elected in October. He will meet in the coming days with other top Lebanese officials, including the prime minister and parliament speaker.

Lebanon is home to some 400,000 refugees, mainly in 12 crowded Palestinian refugee camps.

Abbas read a statement after his meeting with Aoun, saying that Palestinians stand against terrorism in all its forms.

"Our people in Lebanon have confirmed that they will preserve security and stability in the camps and here I assert that commitment of all Palestinian factions with this vision," he said. He added that the Palestinians, like the Lebanese, are opposed to all forms of terrorism.

Over the past months, dozens of wanted people who were taking shelter in the refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh in southern Lebanon have handed themselves over to Lebanese authorities.

Ein el-Hilweh is notorious for its lawlessness and is home to some extremists who sympathize with the Islamic State group and al-Qaida.

Abbas blasted Israel, blaming it for a lack of progress in peacemaking in the Middle East.

"The political process is still stagnating and despite that we are extending our hands for peace in accordance with international resolutions," Abbas said. "Israel is still insisting on occupying our land and keeping our people in a large prison and this is what we will not accept."

In a striking departure from longtime American policy, U.S. President Donald Trump refrained earlier this month from supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While this pleased Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard line coalition partners, Trump said that whatever solution is reached would have to be acceptable to both sides.

That has raised questions about what kind of agreement could be reached. The alternative, a single binational state, could require Israel to grant citizenship to millions of Palestinians under its control, threatening its status as a Jewish-majority democracy.

On Saturday, Abbas is scheduled to leave for Geneva where he will deliver a speech two days later at the Human Rights Council, according to Majdi Khaldi, Abbas' diplomatic adviser.

By Associated Press 24 February 2017, 12:00AM

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