September 23, 1999

Dear Father Labib:

The following item may be of interest to you and your readers.

Archbishop John Elya
Of the Greek Catholics in the USA

 Subj: Standing Conf. Of M.E. Rel.Leaders in USA
Date: 9/23/99
In a meeting held at the headquarters of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, September 16, 1999, the following statement was issued:
There have been many statements issued lately by political and religious leaders about settling the Palestinians in Lebanon.  We have observed with great satisfaction that the political and spiritual leaders of Lebanon, regardless of religious affiliation, have totally and unequivocally rejected this proposition.  In 1948, 1967 and 1970 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were welcomed into Lebanon, as guests, and not on a pen-nanent basis.  The Lebanese people extended to the Palestinians every humanitarian and moral support, many times at the expense of peace and tranquility of Lebanon.  We do not know of any country which has offered more sacrifices for the Palestinian cause than Lebanon.  The return of the Palestinians to Palestine is a sacred right for which the Lebanese continue to struggle in Lebanon and overseas.  Moreover, it is pleasing to kn@)w that the Palestinians themselves will not accept any home on earth in exchange for Palestine, their original home since time immemorial.
(1) We would like to make it clear that any attempt to settle the Palestinians in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon or Jordan, denying them the right to return home is a flagrant violation of UN Resolution 194, the Geneva Convention of 1949, the Tae'f Agreement of 1989, the stated policy of all Arab -countries and the international community.  It is inconceivable that millions of Jews from all over the world can settle in Palestine while the indigenous people of Palestine (the Palestinians) are denied their inalienable right t(, return to their land.
(2) While the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government continue to negotiate peace, we appeal to Chairman Arafat and the Palestine National Council, urging them to stand firm and not compromise the sacred right of the diaspora Palestinians to return home.
(3) We also urge Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, who have welcomed most of the Palestinian refugees, to call for a Special Arab Summit Conference for the sole purpose of discussing this tragic problem and bringing it, once again, to the attention of the international community.
(4)  Any resolution taken by an Arab Summit Conference or otherwise must be brought to the attention of the President of the United States, urging him to pressure Israel to permit the return of the Palestinians to their homes in accordance with international law and legitimacy.  Furthermore, such a resolution should be presented to the permanent members of the Security Council and the European community.
(5) Finally, the return home of the Palestinians will, highly, contribute to the reunification of the Palestinian family and help build a strong and viable Palestinian State which will highly enhance international peace and the new world order.
Most Reverend Metropolitan Philip Saliba, Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of NA
Right Reverend Bishop Stephen Douehi
Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn
Most Reverend John A. Elya
Eparch of Newton, Diocese of Newton
Skeikh Sami T. Merhi, Chairman
The Druze Council of North America
Sheikh Hamad Chebli
Islamic Center, New Jersey
Most Reverend Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan
Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America
Imam Fadhel Al-Sahlani
Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center, Jamaica, NY