Aoun receives invitation to attend Arab summit, says Palestinian cause one of Lebanon’s prime concerns

Foreign Affairs

President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, on Tuesday received an official invitation from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, to partake in the 29th Arab Summit to be held in the KSA's eastern province's Dhahran on Sunday, April 15.

Saudi Minister plenipotentiary charges d'affaires, Walid Bukhari, handed Aoun the invitation during a visit to Baabda Palace today.

"The summit will contribute to enhancing joint Arab action and confronting the challenges facing Arab nations. It will help achieve the goals and aspirations of our peoples," Bukhari, the Saudi head of mission in Lebanon, said.

In his letter, the Saudi monarch expressed hope to welcome President Aoun in Saudi Arabia during the summit, wishing him "good health and happiness", and wishing the Lebanese people "progress and prosperity".

President Aoun also conveyed his greetings to King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, confirming his participation on head of a Lebanese delegation at the Arab Summit.

"We hope to achieve the results that strengthen Arab unity, especially amidst the prevailing difficult circumstances," Aoun said.

On another level, President Aoun welcomed former Deputy Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Jerusalem International Foundation, former Minister Bechara Merhej.

Merhej and his accompanying delegation briefed the President on the current situation in Jerusalem and on the foundation's endeavors to hold its ninth conference in Beirut during the month of October "to express outright rejection of US President Donald Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," in addition to confronting all attempts to Judaize the Holy City.

President Aoun welcomed the delegation and pushed for the conference to be held in Lebanon.

"The Lebanese cling to the Palestinians' right of return to their homeland and reject settlement," Aoun stressed, adding that Lebanon will echo its unwavering stance on the matter during the upcoming Arab Summit.

Separately, President Aoun met President of the General Labor Confederation, Bechara Asmar, and President of the General Union of Hotels, Restaurant, Nutrition and Entertainment employees in Lebanon, Joseph Haddad, along with members of the union.

During the meeting, Asmar highlighted the pressures exerted on the working force in Lebanon, especially in light of the fierce competition against non-Lebanese workers, most notably by Syrian refugees "who are taking over jobs at institutions, hotels, tourist establishments, and reaping the benefits of the Lebanese market without any limits."

In turn, President Aoun welcomed the delegation and highlighted the crucial economic situation in Lebanon, stressing as well the impact of the Syrian influx on this situation, especially that a large number of refugees has accessed the Lebanese labor market, thus increasing the unemployment rate in Lebanon to 46%.

"Lebanon is currently relying on the outcome of Brussels conference to help it cope with the burden of refugees, in the hope that the Syrian crisis will be resolved and the return of refugees to their country will take place gradually," he said.

"Lebanon has not been actively assisted in this area. Security in Syria does not allow their return," he added.

Touching on the country's dire economic situation, Aoun said that Lebanon's economic crisis was the outcome of mismanagement, corruption, and accumulation of public debt since 1990.

The President mentioned as well the huge deficit in electricity, noting that the public debt has reached $80 billion.

On another level, President Aoun contacted by phone Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Sisi, and congratulated him on his re-election as president of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Source: National News Agency