Waving Goodbye to Lebanon
Ali Awad Assiri
Saturday, 16 Aug, 2014
When this article is published, I will be in the process of leaving my post as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon to take up the post of Saudi ambassador to another brotherly state, Pakistan. For me, this transitional period could be expressed by the famous lines of the Lebanese philosopher Khalil Gibran: “Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”
Yes, Gibran was absolutely right. As I prepare to leave this beloved country, I feel I am leaving my home, family and friends behind. I have felt the deep affection between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and the ties that bind our two peoples together. Whenever a Saudi national is in Lebanon, or a Lebanese in Saudi Arabia, we feel at home, among our brothers and sisters.
I wanted to start this article with this sentimental introduction in order to assert that the relations that bind the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Lebanon together are first and foremost human ones, between its two peoples, that were established before political, economic or any other relations—these came only afterwards.
Saudi Arabia’s leadership is eager to maintain this special relationship; that is why the Kingdom has always endeavored to stand beside the Lebanese state and its institutions, as well as beside the brotherly people of Lebanon of all religions and sects. Saudi Arabia’s sole concern has been to support Lebanon’s national interests, its development, prosperity, progress and stability.
While the spotlight has always been on the Ta’if Agreement, which ended the Lebanese civil war, Saudi Arabia has taken a number of positive stances to support Lebanon in a variety of different fields, including politics, the economy, construction, education and the launching of different projects. All of this stemmed from the goodwill of the Kingdom and its people towards Lebanon and the people of Lebanon.
Over the past five years in Lebanon, I made links with many Muslim and Christian political leaders and forces. I listened to many ideas, opinions and views, and the summary of my experience is that all these parties are united in their love for Lebanon and in serving Lebanese interests within the framework of patriotism and national responsibility; the difference is on how to achieve these objectives.
I would like to put on record—and everybody I worked with over the years in Lebanon can confirm this—that I utilized the same discourse with all leaders and political forces, calling for dialogue, promoting national unity and stressing that national interest must supersede all other interests. This discourse was based on confirming that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the friend of all Lebanese, and welcomes any agreements that can be made between the various Lebanese parties, because they are aware of their own affairs.
Even the hardest and most difficult moments only prompted me to adhere even more to honesty; anybody who loves Lebanon will, by word and deed, seek to do what is best for the country, while those who are working to serve their own interests are already doomed, because they have failed to learn the lessons of history.
Following on from that, let me say that the events that are taking place in the region, especially the events in Syria, are directly affecting Lebanon. This is why it is so important for Lebanon’s leaders, officials and people to be aware of what is happening and seek to stop these regional fires from igniting the country. They must work to distance Lebanon from a situation whose repercussions it could not bear.
This is why it is important that Lebanon distances itself from the regional struggles and strengthens itself at home by electing a new president who enjoys the support of all political forces. This president will then be able to impose the authority of the state and help the country through this difficult phase with the least possible losses, bringing the Lebanese people together with a common vision.
Lebanon is not short of intellect or capabilities—this is a Lebanese trait. Nor is it short of statesman or leaders—the country is rich with them. Nor does Lebanon lack impetus and motivation—the Lebanese people are known for this. Rather, what Lebanon needs now is for the voices of reason to come out and be heard, allowing wisdom to prevail over internal and regional political calculations.
And out of my affection for Lebanon—and since these words stem from the heart I will allow myself to repeat the words that I have so often said—[we must] love and take care of Lebanon.
To the Lebanese people: transcend your differences, hold dialogue, be open to each other, reconcile, strengthen your national unity, safeguard your country, build and develop Lebanon, cultivate its land and raise its profile high. Secure a good, prosperous future for your children; give them a safe country that is prosperous and a glowing pearl in the region.
Do not leave your differences, and political, economic and security problems for the next generation to deal with. Do not let your children lose faith in their homeland and emigrate abroad; hold on to them and make them believe in Lebanon, their homeland, the Land of Cedars.
I am not saying all this out of a desire to lecture you or guide you, God forbid. This is a call that is burning inside a soul that simmers with love for Lebanon, and suffers at its pains. Lebanon is a country of culture, history and science which has given much to the region and continues to do so; all Arabs have a duty to rush to Lebanon’s aid.
In the five years that I spent in Lebanon with my family, we breathed the country’s air, walked under its skies and broke bread with its people. These things cannot be taken lightly, particularly as we were brought up on tradition and respect for values and customs. We are all the sons of this land and our concerns are the same; our hopes and aims are one.
Finally, let me express my thanks and appreciation to all the Lebanese politicians, military officials and spiritual leaders, and all state institutions and media outlets, and everybody in the public and private sectors. I thank all the people of Lebanon for whom I wish security, prosperity and happiness.
Lebanon, the land of benevolence, authenticity and chivalry—I came to you with a heart filled with love, and as I leave, these feelings have only grown. I pray to God to protect this dear country as I pray to God to protect my own, and pray that its banners continue to fly high.