PrintEmail This Page
Fares Participates in the World Economic Forum - February 2-3, 2002
Fares Point of View on How to Improve Arab-American Relations
Fares Point of View on Money Laundering
Fares Point of View on Protecting Minorities Worldwide

Lebanese Deputy Premier Issam Fares held a series of contacts with senior American and Arab officials on the sidelines of his participation in the annual congress of the World Economic Forum held at Waldorf Astoria in New York from January the 31rst until February 4. The latest contacts were held with former US President Bill Clinton with whom he participated in a seminar on ‘Protecting Minorities Worldwide’, with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jasem Bin Jabr al-Thani, the Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa, and former US Senator George Mitchell.

Fares participated in three seminars organized by the World Economic Forum: ‘How to Improve Arab- American Relations’, ‘Protecting Minorities Worldwide’, and ‘Fighting Money Laundering’.

Fares attends with Clinton the Forum on "Protecting Monitories Worldwide"

Fares discusses with the Arab League Secretary General issues of mutual interest

Meeting held with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jasem Bin Jabr al-Thani

H.E. Mr. Fares discusses with Senator Mitchell the latest political developments
Fares Point of View on How to Improve Arab-American Relations ‘Allow me first to salute the World Economic Forum for taking the initiative of holding this meeting in New York and inviting me to take part in its proceedings and deliver a speech in its ad hoc sessions.

The time has come to discuss Arab-American relations in an open and objective manner. Needless to say that these relations are not at their best and suffer indeed from serious flaws. The situation is worsening day after day. There is a serious conflict around the concept of relations itself and the current level of psychological interaction.

I will list three aspects of the conflict, whilst highlighting one of a particular importance:
1- Concerning the Israeli-Arab conflict: Arabs generally feel that the US is more supportive to Israel than to Palestinians.

2- Concerning weapons of mass destruction: Arabs feel that the US does not mind Israel possessing military nuclear arsenal, which gives it superiority over the Arab states.

3- Concerning the oil supply: Arabs feel that US is not respecting Arab interests as it should in return to their respect of American interests in matter of oil production and prices’ control.

That is how Arabs feel, and of course there is a reason for them to feel that way. This situation needs to be rectified. This forum is the most adequate place to expose problems and find suitable solutions. It is my duty to highlight the above-mentioned problems from an Arabic perspective so that we can adopt an attitude, which helps in achieving peace in the Middle East.

We are aware that it is almost impossible to reach an agreement today, yet we cannot give up, because we don’t have any other alternative to peace.

Concerning the Israeli-Arab conflict, Arabs feel that the U.S is always seeking to implement international conflict related UN resolutions, whilst adopting a different attitude when it comes to Middle- East conflicts. The following examples will provide sufficient proof about this:

1- Resolution 242 ratified by the UN after the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, calls for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories occupied during that period. Israel is still however occupying a large part of the Gaza strip and the West Bank in Palestine, the Golan heights in Syria, as well as East Jerusalem and a part of Lebanese Farms.
2- Resolution 338, ratified by the UN after the 1973 Israeli -Arab war, calls for the immediate and full implementation of UN resolution 242 and not to “negotiations” as is the case today.
3- The 1947 UN resolution dividing Palestine puts Jerusalem under UN mandate because of the sacred character it represents to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Yet, it is not apparent that the UN wants to return things to order. Furthermore we are not witnessing any serious efforts to prevent Israel from annexing Jerusalem to the Jewish State as its eternal capital.
4- The fourth Geneva Convention prohibits occupying forces from settling their population in occupied lands. Despite this fact, Israel built around 200 settlements in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. More than 300.000 Israelis live in these settlements.
5- UN Resolution 194 acknowledges the Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homeland and receive indemnities. However this decision was never given the attention it deserved.

These are the main conflict aspects. Madrid, Oslo, Camp David and White House negotiations did achieve some breakthrough but there is still a wide difference between what the US is offering and what Israel is offering on one side and what the Arabs are expecting on the other side, their expectations being based on UN resolutions.

What we expect from the United States is that it continues to play a leading role in peace negotiations. We are however convinced that the US efforts can yield much more fruitful results if there were greater intervention from the European Union and Russia. We must do our best to achieve just and comprehensive peace in the region despite deterrent actions carried by extremists and fundamentalists from both sides. To achieve this goal we must have faith in our objective for peace and be determined to reach it. Fares Point of View on Money Laundering ‘The tragic events of September 11 shed light on Money Laundering activities and their contribution in fueling terrorism. More pressure was therefore exerted on national authorities to reinforce the existing laws and regulations to fight this phenomenon. Money laundering activities in one state are surely used to support crimes elsewhere. The phenomenal development of telecommunications in the past decades facilitated without any doubt entrapped money-laundering activities.

The 1956 Lebanese banking secrecy policy allows the lifting of secrecy in case of any money laundering suspicion. However, there was a strong need to further consolidate this law to keep pace with the development of telecommunications and technology in the financial sector. Consequently, Lebanon scrutinized thoroughly its adopted regulations taking all the necessary measures to fight money laundering with the cooperation of the Financial Action Group. In my capacity as a Deputy Premier, I headed a ministerial committee which prepared law-decrees and regulations, in a very short time, aimed at fighting money laundering. In April 2001 the Lebanese parliament ratified the above mentioned law-decrees’.

The Deputy Premier added that the new law empowered legitimate authorities to lift banking secrecy in case any person is suspected of money laundering, terrorist attacks, drug production or trafficking, organized crimes, illegal weapons trafficking, public or private embezzlement through fraud, money or official documents forgery.

By setting up a Private Inspection Committee handling enquiries and delivering sentences, the law strengthened the independence of the Judicial System. Competent authorities and the Higher Banking Committee are the only bodies capable of taking a decision maintaining or lifting the banking secrecy. The decision taken is final and not subject to appeal.

While the new law preserved Lebanon’s traditional banking secrecy- an important factor to enhance the country’s economy- it also falls within the “Financial Action Group’s” regulations in matter of fighting money laundering. I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that the Financial Action Group mentioned in its annual report issued in June 2001 that Lebanon has made a tremendous effort in fighting money laundering and managed to overcome the flaws it suffered from in the field.

Lebanon’s Central Bank is the main institution in charge of implementing the new law after its publication. The Private Inspection Committee has set up and the Central Bank has issued memorandums providing detailed information about the steps to be taken to fight money laundering directly and indirectly on both banking and financial levels.

Mr. President, Lebanon has suffered for a long time from terrorism, wars and crimes resulting from money laundering. Lebanon is ready today to cooperate with the International Community to fight this phenomenon and adopt steps and procedures to detect and pursue money-laundering operations. Thank you Mr. President. Fares Point of View on Protecting Minorities Worldwide ‘Through History minorities have always endured the burden of all kinds of discrimination, some of which are still continuing in this “Global village” of the 21st century. Discrimination is often based on religion, language, ethnic or societal values.
Let us take my country, Lebanon as an example to see if we could draw a lesson from our own experience:

In their majority Lebanese are Arabs, speaking the Arabic language, with some exceptions of course. Most of them are Christians or Muslims mainly. Numerous confessions stems out of each one of these religions: a Christian is either Maronite, Orthodox, or Greek Catholic …etc; a Muslim is either Sunni, Shiite, Druze or Alawi. The Lebanese law acknowledges these confessions and each one of them has its own position within the political formula. The 1943 National Consensus and 1989 Taef Accord equally distribute governmental positions between these different confessions.

The number of Muslims and Christians has changed while the political formula remained the same. No group is classified as a minority or majority in Lebanon because the law defines each community’s rights and protects these rights. Minorities thus feel and act as if they were a majority. We do talk about Lebanon as a country of minorities; it is definitely not a country where the majority rules whilst the minority remains out of the political system.

Whatever their numbers, equality is maintained between Christians and Muslims whether in the government, the parliament or public administrations. Therefore our own experience demonstrates that the rights of the minorities can be better protected when:

1-The minorities are represented in the government

2-The governmental decisions are taken by consensus

3-The political regime is democratic and pluralistic

4-The culture is opened to the other, ready to understand him, accept him and preserve his interests.

5-Civil organizations are free and active in protecting the rights of the various communities

6- The party system is pluralistic, prosperous and able to respond to social, political and economic needs

7-A free economic and political regime is established ensuring equal opportunities to all

8-Freedom of worship and religious rites is allowed

I think that all these conditions are met in Lebanon and we have protected them even in the darkest hours of the war that has taken our country by storm for two decades. The success or failure of this political regime and the rights of the minorities within it cannot be judged at the light of this war that was mainly a regional and international one.

The survival of his political regime at the end of the war in 1990 has proven that Lebanon’s pluralistic regime based on respecting the rights of the minorities is a good example to be followed.