|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Activities of Secretary-General in Lebanon, 13-15 January
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Beirut on the afternoon of Friday, 13 January, after an overnight flight from New York and a transfer in Paris. The main aims of the trip were to attend a high-level United Nations meeting on Reform and Transitions to Democracy, visit staff of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and hold bilateral meetings with Lebanese leaders.
The Secretary-General first met with General Michel Sleiman, the President of Lebanon, at the Presidential Palace. He then met Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister, in his office at the Grand Serail. From there, the Secretary-General went to the Speaker’s Residence, Ain el-Tine, to meet Nabih Berri, Speaker of Parliament.
In the early evening, the Secretary-General gave a press conference at which he briefed reporters on his talks and took a number of questions. Referring to Lebanon having just finished a two-year term on the Security Council, and the fact that the past year had been shaped by dramatic developments in the Arab world, he stated that this has not been an easy responsibility. “But Lebanon played its part, in the Security Council and more broadly,” he noted.
The Secretary-General then attended an official dinner hosted by President Sleiman at the Presidential Palace.
On the morning of Saturday, 14 January, the Secretary-General met members of the United Nations country team in Lebanon and then travelled to the headquarters of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which is based in Beirut, for a town hall meeting with staff.
From ESCWA the Secretary-General went to Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport, from where he flew by UNIFIL helicopter to the mission’s headquarters in Naqoura. After talks with the outgoing Force Commander and Head of Mission, Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, and his senior staff, the Secretary-General reviewed troops and laid a wreath in memory of the 293 United Nations personnel who died in the line of duty while serving with UNIFIL since its establishment in 1978. In remarks at the cenotaph, the Secretary-General said “peace will be the greatest tribute to their memory”. (See Press ReleaseSG/SM/14060.)
He then presented the United Nations Medal to the Force Commander. After being briefed further on operational and political aspects of the mission, the Secretary-General returned to Beirut by UNIFIL helicopter.
Back in Beirut, during the course of Saturday afternoon, the Secretary-General held talks at his hotel with a number of Lebanese political leaders who had asked to meet him. He met separately with Fouad Siniora, Leader of the Lebanon First Bloc in Parliament; Amine Gemayel, Leader of the Kata’eb Party, and Walid Jumblatt, Leader of the Progressive Socialist Party. In all three meetings, the Secretary-General discussed United Nations support to Lebanon, the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, and Lebanon’s important contributions to the Organization. They also exchanged views on regional issues, in particular the situation in Syria and its impact on Lebanon.
The Secretary-General also had a bilateral meeting with Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Minister of Turkey. They discussed a range of regional matters, in particular the situation in Syria, as well as Iran and Cyprus. The Secretary-General said the dangerous trajectory of the crisis in Syria was a source of grave concern.
That evening, the Secretary-General attended an official dinner hosted by the Prime Minister at the Grand Serail in honour of those attending the High-level Meeting on Reform and Transition to Democracy. In his remarks, the Secretary-General reiterated that we need to ensure the rights of all are respected. “We should no longer condone the marginalization of some”, he said, “nor should we tolerate violence against women and children.” (See Press Release SG/SM/14061.)
On the morning of Sunday, 15 January, the Secretary-General delivered the keynote address at the opening of the High-level Meeting on Reform and Transition to Democracy, which was organized by ESCWA and also attended by Prime Minister Mikati and other Lebanese and regional officials, as well as academics. In his remarks, he said that the spontaneous, home-grown and non-violent movements are a credit to the Arab people. “They are a rebuke to those, Arab and non-Arab alike, who claimed this part of the world is not ready for democracy.” (See Press Release SG/SM/14062.)
The Secretary-General then left for Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where he arrived that same afternoon.
* *** *