25 September 2013

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

International Support Group, Says Secretary-General at Inaugural Meeting, Signals

Commitment to Lebanonís Policy of Disassociation from Regional Conflicts

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moonís remarks at the inaugural meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon, in New York, 25 September:

I am pleased to convene this inaugural meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon in the presence of His Excellency President Michel Sleiman.† This initiative follows the July appeal by the Security Council for ďstrong, coordinated international support for LebanonĒ, as well as your calls, Mr. President, for assistance in maintaining Lebanonís stability and addressing the multiple challenges Lebanon now faces.

The conflict in Syria has driven nearly 800,000 refugees from Syria to seek safety and assistance from the United Nations in Lebanon.† That figure is expected to surpass 1 million by the end of this year, an extraordinary challenge for any country to face.† I commend the Lebanese Government and people for their openness and generosity in hosting the refugees.† The United Nations, through UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and our partners, continues to work with the Lebanese authorities to keep up with the needs of the refugees and host communities.

The refugee presence, and the crisis in Syria more generally, are also placing significant pressure on Lebanonís public services, infrastructure and economy.† That impact has now been assessed in a joint study undertaken by the World Bank, the United Nations and the Lebanese Government.

The High Commissioner for Refugees and the President of the World Bank will shortly speak to these issues.† I would also like to draw attention to the profound repercussions the conflict is having on Lebanonís security.† This is another area where international support is essential.

The Lebanese Armed Forces and security services face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to maintain security and stability internally, along the border with Syria and in the south along the Blue Line.† I condemn last monthís bombings in Beirut and Tripoli ó acts of terrorism which killed dozens and wounded hundreds.

The situation along the border with Syria is dangerous, as local communities are exposed to shelling, rockets and small arms fire.† In the south, the Lebanese Armed Forces continue to uphold their obligation to work alongside UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] in fulfilment of resolution 1701 (2006).

As the Lebanese themselves acknowledge, the Lebanese Armed Forces are stretched and insufficiently equipped to address these myriad tasks.† I welcome the adoption by Lebanon of a plan to ensure that the armed forces are equipped to respond effectively.† I have asked my Special Coordinator for Lebanon and the UNIFIL Force Commander to work closely with the Lebanese Armed Forces to deliver coordinated international support.† I hope that the International Support Group will be at the heart of these efforts.

The creation of this International Support Group signals the international communityís united commitment to Lebanonís stability and to the countryís policy of disassociation from regional conflicts.† It also underscores our commitment to supporting the institutions of the Lebanese State.† Here, I wish to pay tribute to the wise leadership of President Sleiman in promoting dialogue and in upholding Lebanonís sovereignty, unity and stability and the continuity of State institutions.

The International Support Group will work closely with all stakeholders to assist Lebanon in those areas where it is being most affected by the Syrian crisis, including assistance to refugees and host communities, structural and financial support to the Government, and strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces.† Support in these areas will also contribute to the longer-term needs of the country.

Beyond our meeting today, I count on your close cooperation with my Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, to advance this Groupís work in each of these areas.† The United Nations has an important and wide-ranging presence in Lebanon, and we are strongly committed to providing our utmost support.

I look forward to hearing from President Sleiman and others here today, and I thank all participants for your commitment to Lebanonís stability and security.

The inauguration of this International Support Group for Lebanon sends an important public signal that the international community and the United Nations are standing with Lebanon at this time of heightened pressure.† I know that others are also ready to join as advocates to see Lebanon and its people through this crisis and on to a better future.† Thank you.† Merci.

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For information media • not an official record