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The Taif Agreement (Arabic: اتفاقية الطائف) (also "National Reconciliation Accord," or "Document of National Accord") was an agreement reached to provide "the basis for the ending of the civil war and the return to political normalcy in Lebanon." Negotiated in Taif, Saudi Arabia, it was designed to end the decades-long Lebanese civil war, politically accommodate the demographic shift to a Muslim majority, reassert Lebanese authority in South Lebanon (then occupied by Israel), though the agreement set a time frame for Syrian withdrawal and stipulated that the Syrians withdraw in two years. It was signed on 22 October 1989 and ratified by the Lebanese parliament on 5 November 1989.
The treaty was negotiated in Taif, Saudi Arabia by the surviving members of Lebanon's 1972 parliament; fathered by Parliament Speaker President Hussein El-Husseini. The agreement came into effect with the active mediation of Saudi Arabia, discreet participation by the United States, and behind-the-scenes influence from Syria.
The agreement covered political reform, the ending of the Lebanese Civil War, the establishment of special relations between Lebanon and Syria, and a framework for the beginning of complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Since Rafik Hariri was a former Saudi diplomatic representative, he played a significant role in constructing the Taif Agreement. It is also argued that Taif Accord reoriented Lebanon toward the Arab world, especially Syria. In other words, the Taif Accord positioned Lebanon as a country with "an Arab identity and belonging." The agreement was finalized and confirmed only after the development of an anti-Saddam Hussein international alliance. The alliance included the following countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, France, and the United States. On the other hand, the agreement also gained the blessing of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, it collectively and internationally supported for Syria's guardianship over Lebanon.
The agreement formed the principle of "mutual coexistence" (al 'aysh al-mushtarak) between Lebanon's different sects and their proper political representation (sihat al-tamthil al-siyasi) as the main objective of post-civil war parliamentary electoral laws. And it restructured the National Pact political system in Lebanon by transferring some of the power away from the Maronite Christian community, which had been given a privileged status in Lebanon under the period of French rule. Prior to Taif, the Sunni Muslim Prime Minister was appointed by and responsible to the Maronite President. After Taif the Prime Minister was responsible to the legislature, as in a traditional parliamentary system. Therefore, the agreement changed the power-sharing formula that had favoured the Christians to a 50:50 ratio and enhanced the powers of the Sunni prime minister over those of the Christian president. Prior to the Taif negotiations, a Maronite Christian, General Michel Aoun, had been appointed Prime Minister by President Amine Gemayel on 22 September 1988. This had caused a serious political crisis of a split Premiership as the post was reserved for a Sunni Muslim due to the National Pact of 1943, and Omar Karami held this office. Taif helped to overcome this crisis by preparing the election of a new president.
The agreement also provided for the disarmament of all national and non national militias. All have disarmed apart from the Shiite Hezbollah and the non-Lebanese Fatah, Hamas, and PFLP-GC. The Hezbollah was allowed to stay armed in its capacity as a "resistance force" rather than a militia, fighting Israel in the south, a privilege obtained, according to Magnus Ranstorp, in part by using its leverage as holder of a number of Western hostages, as of January 2012, Hezbollah remains armed and in control of the area after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000.
Although the Taif Agreement identified the abolition of political sectarianism as a national priority, it provided no timeframe for doing so. The Chamber of Deputies was increased in size to 128 members, shared equally between Christians and Muslims, rather than elected by universal suffrage that would have provided a Muslim majority (excluding the expatriate community, a majority of which is Christian). A cabinet was established similarly divided equally between Christians and Muslims.
The agreement was ratified on 5 November 1989. Parliament met on the same day at Qoleiat air base in North Lebanon and elected President Rene Mouawad, 409 days after Amine Gemayel vacated this position upon the expiration of his term in 1988. Mouawad was unable to occupy the Presidential Palace which was still in use by General Michel Aoun. Mouawad was assassinated seventeen days later in a car bombing in Beirut on 22 November 1989 as his motorcade returned from Lebanese independence day ceremonies. He was succeeded by Elias Hrawi, who remained in office until 1998.
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