I am pleased to welcome Prime Minister Tammam Salam to this meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon. I thank him for his untiring efforts to maintain unity of purpose during this very challenging period.
I thank all participants in this Group. You have done valuable work to advance greater support for Lebanon’s sovereignty and State institutions, the Lebanese Armed Forces and refugees and vulnerable communities inside the country.
The response has been significant. I welcome the generous support of donors – but this has not matched the country’s exceptional needs. Syrian refugees make up 25 per cent of the population. Lebanon needs more support for local public institutions, especially municipalities which have to continue delivering basic services and maintaining a peaceful environment for refugees and host communities. The rights and safety of refugees who have fled to Lebanon need to continue to be guaranteed.
Resources are insufficient. Needs are rising. If we do not bridge this gap, there will be far-reaching consequences for the region and beyond.
This Group remains committed to advocating for greater assistance. I welcome the European Council’s decision to inject some 1 billion euros into the UN humanitarian response in countries dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis, including Lebanon. I am taking every opportunity to urge donors to support Lebanon – for its sake and for our common security interests.
I appreciate the significant support provided to the Lebanese Armed Forces and other security forces. The Lebanese army has been able to deploy robustly along the eastern border to prevent spillover from the war in Syria. Today it is better equipped to address the increased risk of terrorism resulting from the regional crisis. I am confident this Group will reiterate our strong international commitment to help Lebanon defend its borders and protect its people.
I encourage bilateral partners to expedite support where the Lebanese Armed Forces need it most so that they can effectively address security threats.
International support to Lebanon can only contribute to sustainable stability with functioning State institutions, particularly the Government and Parliament. The absence of a President for 16 months is causing deeper polarization, paralyzing government decision-making, and generating understandable public discontent. The recent large-scale demonstrations in Beirut show that the Lebanese people need and deserve effective, functioning institutions.
The political stalemate undermines stability and limits the impact of international support. The support of this Group demands action by Lebanon’s leaders to resolve the political crisis without delay.
The international community has a deep investment in Lebanon. The country has always stood as a symbol of co-existence. Stability there can help the increasingly fractured region.
Today we send a strong message about our collective commitment to Lebanon and our expectations of its leaders. I hope this Group will issue a clear call on them to adhere to the Constitution, put stability ahead of partisan politics, and show the leadership needed to elect a president without any further delay.
I have heard this call from the international community, Prime Minister Salam and – most importantly – the Lebanese people. At this time of enormous pressure, Lebanon’s leaders must answer the call.
I thank all members of this Group for continuing this collective push for preventive action to keep Lebanon stable in an unstable region.
I look forward to hearing from Prime Minister Salam and all participants about how we can further strengthen support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and unity.
Thank you for your strong commitment.