|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General Toasts to Strengthened Partnership between United Nations, Lebanon,
Says UN Commitment to Country ‘Will Remain Steadfast’ at Beirut Dinner
Following is the toast of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the official dinner hosted by the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Najib Mikati, in honour of the participants at the high-level meeting of reform and transitions to democracy in Beirut, Lebanon, 14 January:
Thank you very much, Your Excellency Prime Minister, for hosting this wonderful dinner in this very elegant chamber.
It is a great pleasure and honour to be in Lebanon for the third time as the Secretary-General. This is my first visit abroad, in fact, in my second term as Secretary-General. Again, I am deeply impressed with the warmth and hospitality of my reception here. But, I have also been impressed with the progress being made by the Government and people of Lebanon. These are dramatic times for the region, with high hopes, as well as potential pitfalls. But I am confident in the future of the Lebanese people and I wish you well.
Over the past two days, we have had excellent meetings with the Lebanese Government leadership and political leaders. We discussed the strong relationship between the United Nations and Lebanon, and our joint efforts to ensure peace and stability and the implementation of all the relevant Security Council resolutions. As you know, the United Nations commitment to Lebanon is extensive, and our presence here one of the largest in the world. I visited UNIFIL today, and was encouraged to see our positive contribution to stability and calm in the area. Our commitment will remain steadfast.
This rich, diverse and beautiful country has faced wars, political assassinations and other threats. But at critical moments, the Lebanese people have always come together. After independence, they forged the National Pact. After the civil war, they reached the Taif Agreement.
Lebanon’s democracy, its civil society and its open media have been an example in a region marked by one-man rule, militarism and authoritarianism.
Now the region is changing. Countries are moving closer to answering the calls of people who have peacefully gathered in the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Benghazi and Tripoli, Sana’a, Der’a, Hama and Homs.
The path has been difficult. Far too many lives have been lost.
Clearly, the time has come to build a democratic future.
We need to ensure the rights of all are respected. We should no longer condone the marginalization of some, nor should we tolerate violence against women and children.
Our challenge is to build systems that can manage diversity peacefully and respond to the demands of the people.
The United Nations will do all we can to help countries respond to their legitimate aspirations. This is one of the top five priorities for the United Nations for the coming years.
At the same time, I will continue to press for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The United Nations will continue to work towards the establishment of a Palestinian State living side by side in peace with a secure Israel.
I thank everyone involved in putting together tomorrow’s meeting. This is the right subject in the right place at the right time with the right people ready to share views.
I thank Dr. Rima Khalaf, the Executive Secretary of UN ESCWA [United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia], who organized this important meeting at this time. And I thank all the participants, distinguished participants, including former Heads of State and ministers and leaders of regional organizations and thinkers and religious leaders who have taken their very precious time for this meeting.
I look forward to the dialogue. Let us make this a real step toward realizing our common goals.
I’d like to propose a toast. Please join me in a toast: to your health, Mr. Prime Minister, to continued prosperity and peace of Lebanon and strengthened partnership between the United Nations and Lebanon and to world peace and prosperity.
* *** *For information media • not an official record