Hezbollah and allies walk out of parliament over Arms Treaty

The treaty would require all parties to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across their borders.
Thursday 27/09/2018
 Lebanese lawmakers attend a legislative session, at the Lebanese parliament building, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP)
Lebanese lawmakers attend a legislative session, at the Lebanese parliament building, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP)

BEIRUT - Lebanon’s parliament ratified the international Arms Trade Treaty in the face of stiff opposition from Hezbollah and other lawmakers, many of whom left the chamber as the final vote was cast.

The 2014 treaty seeks to prevent illicit international trade in conventional arms. Hezbollah legislator Ali Ammar walked out of parliament, saying conditions of the agreement “infringe on the weapons of the resistance.”

The proposals were also criticised by the Marada Movement, Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, Syrian Social Nationalist Party, MP Jamil Assayed and independent Sunni deputies, amid the abstention of Amal Movement and Free Patriotic Movement lawmakers.

MP and Hezbollah ally Nawaf Moussawi said: “The Israeli enemy is a partner in this treaty. Signing it would not fall in Lebanon’s interest.”

Hezbollah was established in response to Israel’s 1982 invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon. After Lebanon's 15-year civil war ended in 1990, Hezbollah was permitted to keep its weapons in respect of its campaign against Israeli forces occupying parts of the country.

Under the terms of the Arms Trade Treaty, all parties are required to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across their borders. International standards must be met before arms are authorised for export and all imports and exports of weapons must be reported.

Registering the supply of weapons to and from Lebanon stands to be particularly problematic for Hezbollah, whose relations with its sponsors in Iran have often proceeded under the table. Hezbollah has amassed a significant arsenal, including tens of thousands of rockets and missiles. In addition, the group has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to support President Bashar Assad's forces.

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, after the treaty was approved, said: “The treaty has nothing to do with the arms of the resistance. Lebanon must sign it because it falls in its interest.”

Relations between Hariri and Hezbollah have been slipping as both sides negotiate for positions in the new government.

The rancour has centred on Hariri’s determination to retain one-third of cabinet seats for his Future Movement, which it may need to veto any proposed normalisation of relations with Syria, a move that Damascus’s allies in Hezbollah and in the Lebanese presidency see as vital.