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Politics and government of
After battles broke out in Lebanon because of the ongoing political crisis, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani invited all Lebanese political parties to its capital Doha to seek an agreement, in order to end the ongoing political crisis and avoid an eventual civil war.
Before The Doha Agreement
Lebanon's ongoing political crisis suddenly exploded when the government issued two decisions to remove Hezbollah's telecommunications network and resign the Rafik Hariri International Airport's head of security after finding out about a Hezbollah surveillance camera monitoring the western runway number 17, which is used primarily for executive jets. In response to these decisions, mushrooming riots swept across Beirut resulting in heavy clashes between Hezbollah and the majority, afterwards Hezbollah militants invaded and took control of western Beirut. This was the first time after the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) weapons were used by Hezbollah on the internal front. Battles moved to several areas in the country including Mount Lebanon and the North, and 300 people are estimated to have died in the operation.The Arab council quickly acted to stop the violence. Based on the Arab initiative regarding containment of the Lebanese crisis, and in pursuance of the agreement concluded among the Lebanese parties in Beirut on 15 May 2008, under the aegis of the Arab Ministerial Committee an agreement was reached.
The Lebanese national dialogue
The Lebanese National Dialogue Conference was held in Doha between 16 May and 21 May 2008, with the participation of the Lebanese political leaders who are members of the National Dialogue Conference and who have asserted their commitment to saving Lebanon and ending the current political crisis and its dangerous consequences for the coexistence formula and civil peace among the Lebanese, as well as their commitment to the principles enshrined by the Lebanese constitution and the Taif Agreement; and as a result of this Conference, as well as of the bilateral and collective meetings and consultations between the president and members of the Arab Ministerial Committee and all parties that took part in this Conference the parties were able to reach an agreement.
First: The parties have agreed on having the Lebanese parliament speaker, based on the rules in effect, invite the parliament to convene within 24 hours to elect consensus candidate General Michel Suleiman, knowing that this is the best constitutional method to elect the president under these exceptional circumstances.
Second: forming a national unity government composed of 30 ministers distributed among the majority (16 ministers), the opposition (11 ministers) and the president (3 ministers), and by virtue of this agreement, all parties commit not to resign or obstruct the government’s actions.
Third: adopting the caza as an electoral constituency in conformity with the 1960 law, whereby the districts of Marjayoun-Hasbaya, Baalbek-Hermel and West Bekaa-Rashaya remain as a single electoral constituency each.
As for Beirut, it was divided in the following manner:
The first district: Achrafieh – Rmeil – Saifi The second district: Bachoura – Medawar – the Port The third district: Minet al-Hosn – Ain al-Mreisseh – Al-Mazraa – Mousseitbeh – Ras Beirut – Zoqaq al-Blat
Agreeing on referring the reform clauses mentioned in the draft law prepared by the National Commission on Electoral Law Reform, which was headed by Minister Fouad Boutros, to the parliament in order to examine and discuss them in accordance with the rules in effect.
Fourth: Pursuant to the above mentioned Beirut Agreement, especially Paragraphs 4 and 5, which stated the following:
Paragraph 4: The parties commit to abstain from having recourse or resuming the use of weapons and violence in order to record political gains.
Paragraph 5: Initiate a dialogue on promoting the Lebanese state’s authority over all Lebanese territory and their relationship with the various groups on the Lebanese stage in order to ensure the state’s and the citizens’ security.
Hence, the dialogue was initiated in Doha on promoting the state’s authority according to Paragraph 5 of the Beirut Agreement, and an agreement was reached on the following:
- Prohibiting the use of weapons or violence or taking refuge in them in any dispute whatsoever and under any circumstances, in order to ensure respect for the national partnership contract, based on the Lebanese people’s commitment to live with one another within the framework of the Lebanese system, and to restrict the security and military authority over Lebanese nationals and residents to the state alone so as to ensure the continuity of the coexistence formula and civil peace among all the Lebanese; and the parties pledge to all of the above.
- Implementing the law and upholding the sovereignty of the state throughout Lebanon so as not to have regions that serve as safe havens for outlaws, out of respect for the supremacy of the law, and referring all those who commit crimes and contraventions to the Lebanese judiciary.
This dialogue is to be resumed under the aegis of the president as soon as he is elected and a national unity government is formed, and with the participation of the Arab League in such a way as to boost confidence among the Lebanese.
Fifth: Reasserting the commitment of the Lebanese political leaders to immediately abstain from resorting to the rhetoric of treason or political or sectarian instigation.
The Arab Ministerial Committee undertakes to register this agreement before the Arab League General Secretariat as soon as it is signed.
This agreement was signed in Doha on May 21, 2008 by the Lebanese political leaders participating in the Conference and in the presence of the president and members of the Arab Ministerial Committee.”
International support for The Doha agreement
The UN “welcomes and strongly supports the agreement reached by Lebanese leaders in Doha on May 21..., which constitutes an essential step towards the resolution of the current crisis... and the complete restoration of Lebanon's unity, stability and independence.”
In a non-binding statement adopted by all its 15 members, the council also “welcomes the agreement to ban the use of weapons and violence as a means to settle disputes, irrespective of their nature and under any circumstances.”
It hailed the agreement between the western-backed majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition, backed by Syria and Iran, to elect a new president, establish a national-unity cabinet and address Lebanon's electoral law. The council reaffirmed “its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty, unity and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders and under the sole and exclusive authority of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory.”
The statement also recalled previous Security Council resolutions calling for the dismantling and the disarming of all Lebanese and foreign militias.
Individual countries also supported the agreement:
- The agreement was welcomed by France, with President Nicolas Sarkozy saying that it was "great success for Lebanon and all the Lebanese, whose courage and patience never failed despite the ordeals they have been through." French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said though the agreement failed to tackle the root of the political crisis, yet was a first step. "It goes in the right direction, but none of the essence (of the crisis) appears to have been resolved. Yet, it is better to have a president and a (functioning) government," he said.France's UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, for his part, saw the deal as “a foundation upon which Lebanon and its national unity can be rebuilt and its sovereignty as well as territorial integrity reinforced.”
- Germany welcomed the agreement.
- Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson welcomed the agreement and said “Iran hopes the Doha agreement will give the Lebanese a bright future.”
- Saudi Arabia supported the agreement and its ambassador to Lebanon said "Saudi Arabia announces its support for the agreement. We are very happy that this accord has been reached.”
- Syria welcomed the agreement.
- The United States praised the agreement. "The United States welcomes the agreement reached by Lebanese leaders in Doha, Qatar. We view this agreement as a positive step towards resolving the current crisis by electing a President, forming a new government, and addressing Lebanon’s electoral law, consistent with the Arab League initiative. The United States supports the government of Lebanon and its complete authority over the entire territory of the country," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters. The United states's President George Bush released a statement saying he hoped the new agreement would “usher in an era of political reconciliation to the benefit of all Lebanese.”
- Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers, the council chair this month, expressed hope that the Doha deal “will bring to an end a dispute that has being going on for far too long.” He also hoped that “in the coming days, we will see implementation of this agreement and that the painstaking process of rebuilding Lebanese unity can begin.”
After The Doha Agreement
The opposition ended its sit-in which had begun on 1 December 2006 in Beirut. On 25 May 2008, Lebanon's parliament elected General Michel Sleiman as the new president of the country, a post that had been vacant since November.
Lebanese reaction towards the agreement
After the agreement the opposition barricades were dismantled and so were the opposition protest camps in Martyr's Square. Lebanese across the political spectrum have greeted it with relief and joy. After electing President Michel Suleiman, fireworks erupted all over the country, and festivals were held all over Beirut such as the festivals in the Beirut Central District which was the first large non-political gathering in the district for months with Haifa Wehbe, Ragheb Alama, and Assi Al Hillany performing.
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