UN: EU reaffirms support and solidarity with Lebanon in light of Syria crisis
New York (25th September) – Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle spoke on behalf of the European Union at the inaugural meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. The high profile event was launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and attended by representatives of a number of countries, among them US State Secretary John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Commissioner Füle spoke on behalf of the European Union which leads the international efforts related to the Syria crisis and is one of the most important partners supporting Lebanon in dealing with the humanitarian, social and economic consequences of the conflict in the neighbouring country.
"Let me start by thanking the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and his staff for their incredible effort to launch this initiative. They have done so with a lot of dedication and commitment to Lebanon. I also want to extend my thanks to the President of Lebanon, Michel Suleiman, for his energy, passion and vision. And of course I also want to thank all the participants to this meeting.
I welcome this initiative of political support and solidarity with Lebanon. It reflects the EU continued and concrete commitment to Lebanon's stability and sovereignty, dissociation policy, and state institutions including the Lebanese Armed Forces.
The EU and Lebanon are unique partners united by a commitment to democracy, human rights and respect for minorities as well as dialogue and peace. The EU and Lebanon both represent unique visions of unity and diversity, of peaceful and prosperous coexistence of people living together.
Today this precious social cohesion of Lebanon is put under strain by the impact of the Syrian conflict. As I said when I visited Lebanon in June, the EU fully supports Lebanon's policy of dissociation from the conflict in Syria. I would like to stress the importance for all Lebanese parties to respect Lebanon's policy of dissociation in line with the commitments they have undertaken in the Baabda Declaration of June 2012.
Let me also say very clearly that I welcome efforts by President Sleiman to re-launch a national dialogue process. Lebanon needs a government to tackle immediate humanitarian, economic and security challenges and to restore confidence.
There is also no doubt that I was disappointed to see the postponement of elections. This is a missed opportunity. I hope that these 17 months of delay will be used to move forward with essential electoral reforms. And the EU is ready to work closely with Lebanon in these efforts.
Let me reiterate that today's initiative stands for what the EU has been doing to support Lebanon to tackle the consequences of the Syrian conflict.
I want to first praise once again Lebanon's policy of keeping borders open to the people who escaped the violence in Syria. Allow me to echo those that have commended on the generosity of the Lebanese government, and people, that are hosting nearly 800.000 refugees from Syria. The EU already committed EUR 235 million in humanitarian and development assistance to Lebanon to provide aid and assistance to those in need due to the Syrian conflict and will continue to uphold its commitment as the largest donor in the country. Money will never be enough to face this unprecedented crisis. What is needed is a political solution which will result in a united, inclusive and democratic Syria. The EU will continue to push for a political process.
The EU is also fully aware of the findings of the World Bank Social and Economic Impact Assessment which illustrate the negative impact of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon's economy. Mobilising resources and investment for private sector development will be key to revive the economy. That is why as a follow up to my visit to the country in Lebanon, discussions have started about an EU-Lebanon stabilisation package aimed at boosting private sector development. I hope that these discussions will soon become more concrete. Again to best steer and move forward these efforts, we need a government in place.
The EU also supports the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) efforts to maintain order and deliver peace and stability. As we discussed with President Sleiman in June, the EU has also stepped up its engagement to support LAF.
Let me leave you with a final thought. I want to praise this initiative as a tangible sign that the international community stands united to support Lebanon at this critical time. I trust that this effort will continue and will reach out also to other partners so that we can support Lebanon in addressing its immediate humanitarian, economic and security challenges.
The European Commission remains committed to provide continuing support to Lebanon. It will pursue a comprehensive approach linking humanitarian and development assistance, with a particular focus on supporting the hosting communities. The European Commission is fully committed to contribute to a coordinated approach with the major donors and international organisations.