SOMETIMES, the truth is not satisfactory if it clashes with certain convictions. This issue renders many politicians to stand by the language of diplomacy lest they fall in trouble because of ‘what the tough one spelt out’. An Arabic proverb says “your tongue is your fort; it protects you as long as you protect it”. In this case, protect the tongue from saying things you may wish to take back.
For this reason, I followed up a symposium held at “La Sagesse” University in Lebanon, which brought together two heavyweight politicians — the Lebanese Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil and his Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto. The symposium entitled “Crisis of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon and Europe” aimed to separate the economic immigrants from the refugees. The two ministers expressed their thoughts in a frank manner, leaving their diplomatic jargon in their offices at the foreign affairs ministries.
In other words, they came to the symposium armed with everything apart from diplomacy. Many people would concur that conversation becomes more palatable and assimilative when officials (foreign ministers in this case) speak in the layman’s language without the diplomatic quotes when the conversation is straightforward and not influenced by the decision-makers or rather the diplomatic protocols; the conversation gains wide and deep understanding in such cases. In my view, the two ministers affirmed that seeking safety and security is not the main reason for the migration as much as improved economy situation in a peaceful and stable country in Europe.
I find it necessary to quote, word by word, the opening statement of Minister Bassil, because it describes his feelings as a Lebanese Foreign Minister in a straightforward manner. “I am pleased to address the young people and the distinguished professors in the presence of a Foreign Minister from a European Union Country (…) who says we can be politicians and say the truth and protect our country. Whatever they are facing in Europe we are also facing here and it is our responsibility to say the truth no matter how harmful it might be sometimes.” He said, “It is our right to stay in a country like Lebanon where the person saying the truth years ago was accused of discrimination, and we were accused of discrimination because we preferred the Lebanese nationality to any other, and we preferred to preserve the right of Syrian people to live with dignity.”
He also pointed out that “we have to tell between an immigrant for economic reasons and a refugee (…) and we’ve been discussing the issue with the European Union (EU) for four years but the EU continues to discard it, ignorant of the fact that they will deal with a long term crisis that may inflict a lot of harm on the Lebanese as well. Based on the Lebanese Minster’s statement, it became clear that understanding of the political concept of refugee shared by Lebanon and Europe is not similar to information we hear and read in the news media. In this regard, the appropriate step to take is to pinpoint the main cause of migration, as mentioned by the Lebanese minister and concurred by his Hungarian counterpart.
For his part, the Hungarian minister explained the challenges Europe currently faces on social, economic and security levels on account of the immigration crisis. Therefore, it is no surprise for the minister to be worried about security challenges that might come with the influx of migrants. A lot was said at the symposium which can be searched through any search engine. Minister Bassil expressed valid fear concerning the large number of refugees in his country, which hosts about two million refugees at the heart of poor infrastructure in almost every aspect, starting from housing, health, education, and food, which fall below the expected standards.
Lebanon is full of its own problems; imagine adding more problems from outside? In short, a solution to the conflict cannot be found through the Lebanese-Hungarian symposium; instead, the solution is where the problem started. Needless to say the conflict is no longer a Syrian affair, as elements with their own interests are deeply involved in spilling the blood of Syrians for five years consecutively. The only people that can stop the conflict are Syrians, and no one else. It happened in Palestine, and almost happened in Lebanon, and went to Iraq, and then Libya. Now, we see it happening in Yemen and Syria. Lasting solution must be found to the conflict in order to end the flow of innocent blood.
By Yusuf Awadh Al-Azmi