Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Beirut on Wednesday for a two-day official visit.
The Turkish PM was received by his Lebanese counterpart, Saad Hariri, and a delegation of officials at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, the National News Agency (NNA).
Erdogan then headed to Baabda to meet with President Michel Suleiman. During their meeting they addressed bilateral relations, Middle East events and latest Lebanese developments.
“Erdogan is expected to voice Turkey’s support for Lebanon and efforts to foster the country’s stability.”
Following his meeting with Suleiman he headed to Ain el Tinah to meet with speaker Nabih Berri.
In an interview with As-Safir newspaper published on Wednesday, he said that his country, along with other Middle Eastern states, will make an effort in order to prevent any conflict in Lebanon.
Welcomes and protests
More than 100 members of Lebanon’s Armenian community gathered outside Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport on Wednesday to protest against Erdogan’s visit .
The demonstrators stood amid tight security outside the main entrance of the airport, hoisting banners that read: “The Lebanese have not forgotten Turkey’s bloody history in the region” and “Erdogan should bow before our martyrs.”
“Today’s Turkey is yesterday’s Turkey: malicious, oppressive and an ally of the enemy,” or Israel, read another banner.
An AFP correspondent said police, army and SWAT teams were on hand to control the crowd, which had amassed across the street from a rival gathering of more than 100 Lebanese students who waved banners welcoming Erdogan as well as the red flag of Turkey.
During a rally in the Akkar town of Kawashra, which is populated by Lebanese of Turkish origin , Erdogan said Wednesday that he is working with his Lebanese counterpart, Saad Hariri, to strengthen political and economic relations between their two countries.
“We are brothers in this region. No one will ever harm this brotherhood or cause sedition and disagreements between us,” he added .
Hariri said that “this is a historical day for Akkar because Erdogan is among us. Erdogan is a brother, a friend and a special leader who is a guest in Lebanon.”
Erdogan said” Lebanon is one of the most diverse countries in the region. We will stand by Lebanon’s side “and added ” I know that my Turkish brothers will help achieve peace in Lebanon through dialogue.”
Commenting on Israeli provocations he said :
“I once again repeat my call to the Israeli government to apologize to the region and end its provocative actions. We demand the whole world to listen to its conscience and work on achieving security in the region.”
He added: The Israeli government should realize that when security and peace prevail in the region, then it would gain from this peace. Should a war erupt, then the people of the region and the residents of Israel would be the losers.”
Commenting on Israeli massacres in Lebanon and Hariri’s assassination he said :
“When Beirut was besieged, we felt besieged. The blood of Sabra and Shatilla drowned us in pain and we felt great pain when my brother ( former Lebanese PM) Rafik Hariri was assassinated.
Tension in Lebanon
Tension escalated in Lebanon following reports that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will soon issue its indictment into the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Last July, the Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that the tribunal is “an Israeli project” that will indict Hezbollah members. Nasrallah accused Israel of being behind Hariri’s assassination but refused to provide the evidence to STL to support his claim. Hezbollah and its March 8 allies have been calling for the abolition of STL.
Some leaders are concerned that should the court indict Hezbollah members, it could lead to a Shiite-Sunni strife, others aren’t as worried and see this as a desperate attempt by Hezbollah to intimidate and scare the Lebanese and specially PM Saad Hariri .
The Pro Syrian Al Akhbar newspaper reported last week that Hezbollah has prepared a plan to take over Lebanon when STL issues its indictment for the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun , (a close ally of Hezbollah ) said last Wednesday that Hezbollah might violently respond to an STL indictment that accuses Hezbollah party’s members in Hariri’s assassination.
Another FPM member MP Alain Aoun said on Saturday that the Lebanese must “have reservations about any decision issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).”
According to an investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp which was published on Sunday, A Lebanese police officer and U.N. investigators unearthed extensive circumstantial evidence implicating Hezbollah movement in the assassination of former PM Rafiq Hariri,