Sunday, 24 May 2009

Miliband: Hizbullah and Hamas Among Groups That Have Patriotic Aim

Below is a translated version of my interview with FS Miliband, in today's Al-Hayat:

Miliband: Hizbullah and Hamas Among Groups That Have Patriotic Aim
British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband said that both Hizbullah and Hamas could be seen among groups that have a patriotic aim.
In an interview with the daily pan-Arab al-Hayat on Sunday Miliband said "our stance has always been up to the assassination of Lebanon's ex-premier Rafik Hariri in 2005 was to dialogue with Hizbullah MPs. However, this stopped following the Hariri assassination."

He added that the military wing of the party continues to be regarded as a terrorist organization in the United Kingdom.

"But we agreed to resume our dialogue with Hizbullah MPs partially because they have a cabinet minister in Lebanon and the fact that the Lebanese government is committed to the Arab peace process," Miliband said.

He explained that his government had one single meeting with Hizbullah MP that was attended by the British ambassador in Beirut. 

Miliband explained that Hizbullah insists that any future meeting with the British should be photographed, showing the ambassador appearing in the photo. 

"We refuse to have a photograph used in Lebanon's election campaign. Hence, no meetings [with Hizbullah] would be held, the Lebanese people are the ones that decide whom to vote for, this is a process that we won't interfere at," Miliband said.

The British foreign secretary directed his attention to armed groups saying: "I would like to say to all armed militias, end your armed work and engage yourselves into the political process. We want people to be respected for their ideas in a political framework; you cannot be partially in the political process and at the voting poll while part of you is still carrying a gun."

Miliband admitted that the Iraq war constituted on of the major misunderstandings between the Arab and western worlds.

"We said that the peace process in Iraq was not built as should be. However, I don't want to look backward but forward and I must understand history. This is what I have attempted to reflect in my Oxford speech. If we cling to the past we will achieve nothing," he said. 

Last Thursday British Foreign Secretary David Miliband sought to reach out to Muslim nations, calling for a new coalition with the West based on consent. In a speech to the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, he said that relations with the Muslim world had been "skewed" by terrorism, while invasion of Iraq had left a legacy of "bitterness and resentment". 

He stressed the importance of achieving an early resolution to the Middle East conflict, with the establishment of a Palestinian state, as the key to improving relations, and acknowledged also the need for Western nations to work with countries and organizations whose values they did not share in the pursuit of common interests. 

The British Foreign Secretary said that for centuries relations between Europe and the Islamic world had been characterized by "conquest, conflict, and colonialism" and that there was now a need to address the grievances that "keep Muslims down". 

He called for a renewed sense of urgency in the effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with "more political activism and more diplomatic engagement. 

"For people of all faiths and of none, it remains an issue that stirs up an acute sense of injustice and resentment," he said. "We need - all of us, in our own ways - to act soon, very soon, to
prevent a fatal and final blow to the scope for compromise."

Beirut, 24 May 09, 08:50

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