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Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan statement in Lebanon(11 OCTOBER 1978) 1978-10-11

Wednesday, 1978, October 11
youtube video
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan U.N. High Commissioner for the UNHCR
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

Video of Statement by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan at the Press Conference held in Beirut, Lebanon
11 October 1978

May I say first of all, my mission in Beirut is limited in time and in scope.
I have been sent here by the Secretary-General in connection with the hostilities in Beirut in the hope that the visit might contribute to the cessation of bloodshed. Now that we have a ceasefire, although a very fragile one, I am hoping that my visit here and the talks I had today, will contribute in a modest way to the consolidation of that ceasefire.

As you know, the Secretary-General was extremely concerned about the suffering here. I would like speak for a minute in the name of the civilian population and the innocent victims of this conflict.

The Secretary-General was concerned, which I share entirely, all those innocent victims who were caught in these upheavals, they were never asked for their views. The women, the children, the aged were never consulted. They were exploited and used and they paid a very heavy price.

We are concerned about this very heavy toll, we are concerned about the humanitarian problems in Beirut, about the lack of food and water, about the people living underground. These people were never consulted.

The United Nations, as you know, is carrying out a relief program with the International Committee of the Red Cross and I would like to extend a very warm tribute to the ICRC for everything that they are doing .

This has been an atrocious conflict. The mind boggles at the power of self-destruction involved. How can one shoot at ambulances, use the wounded and go on in this way? When will it stop? Everything is to be gained through the consolidation of the ceasefire. Everything is to be lost through the resumption of the shooting and the resumption of hostilities.

It is imperative, therefore, at this time when we face a ceasefire, which is not a disengagement, where the weapons have been stilled but where the factions are still facing each other. That everyone uses the utmost restraint. We have no separation, it is a ceasefire on the spot. And, therefore, restraint is needed to avoid provocation and response to provocation on all sides, on all sides.

I came here with a view to listen to the points of views of Lebanese citizens from all sides. I had the opportunity in Damascus before coming here to assess the Syrian position. I also met a number of Lebanese personalities, I had the opportunity of meeting the Foreign Minister of Lebanon in Damascus before he left with President Sarkis on the tour of Arab capitals. And here this morning, I called, as you know, on the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior, the President of the House, I also had very useful meetings with my U.N. colleagues. And this afternoon I had the opportunity to listen to many Lebanese personalities – I am not in a position to name them because these consultations may continue - where I heard the positions of many of the factions, of the key factions, how they view the ceasefire, how they view the forthcoming developments.

May I say in conclusion that I will report to the Secretary-General on these talks, that my mission is purely humanitarian. The aim is as I say, to consolidate the ceasefire and to try to contribute, albeit in a very modest way, to the establishment of a climate, to the climate – that might lead to a dialogue gaining time, allowing the mini-summit which is to take place here on the 15th – time to take place – so that some solution can emerge. And that finally Lebanon might go back to the road to peace.

The Lebanese, just as they have shown extra-ordinary ability to destroy each other, will I am sure, show great ability to rebuild and to reconstruct. It is in their hands. The United Nations can help in a humanitarian way, but it is in their hands.

I would like to express the hope that the day will come when this country, this wonderful country, can again be stable and that all the people who are suffering at the present time can look forward to human dignity once more.

I will be very happy to answer your questions in French or in English.
(Reporters then started asking various questions)


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