This is the speech delivered by the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri this morning during the opening of the Silk Road Conference "One Belt One Road in Lebanon" organized by Fransabank Group and the Silk Road Chamber for International Commerce at the Adnan Kassar building for Arab economy:
"Hariri, comes from Harir, which is Arabic for "silk". So I am doubly glad today to stand before you in this event titled: "The silk road"!
It is enough to look at the map to see why Lebanon has always been the crossroads of East and West in culture, civilization, religion and trade.
Relations between Lebanon and China are ancient. They developed as transport and communications grew always shrinking the distance.
So today, in the age of the global village, none of us, Chinese or Lebanese have any excuse!
Our ancestors traced the Silk Road, knowing its economic and social importance. Today, this importance has doubled to push economic growth
and combat poverty and unemployment.
This same importance becomes immeasurable when we think in terms of meeting of civilizations, cultures and religions.
This is the only way to combat extremism, bigotry, racism and isolation. In other words, it is the only way to preserve world stability and peace.
China has always been a leading exporter to Lebanon. The same is not true of our exports to China. This calls for particular joint efforts by private and public sectors in our two countries. Today is a good start.
My government has adopted a new approach to dealing with the challenge of hosting over 1.5 million displaced Syrians.
I know the joke goes that 1.5 million fit in a hotel in China!
But to give you an order of magnitude, where would you fit 500 million refugees in China overnight? Because that is our real situation in a country of just 4 million Lebanese!
In a nutshell what we are saying is the following: we thank the international community for humanitarian assistance extended to the Syrian displaced and we certainly hope it will continue. But our infrastructure and public services are simply not designed for this massive influx of users.
Let us invest in both and this way, Lebanese hosts and Syrian displaced both will benefit. This will improve our public services and infrastructure, kick-start our economy and compensate for the sharp drop in growth and employment we have felt since the crisis started.
I am sure the Chinese government and private companies will understand how important this is, especially that investing in Lebanon today is preparing for the massive reconstruction of Syria when a political solution is reached, we hope sooner than later.
Lebanon is too important to be left alone. Lebanon is the model of coexistence and dialogue. It is the model for political settlement so many crises in the region are seeking today. Security and stability of our country is my government's utmost priority today. It should be the priority for everyone hoping to preserve these values in the world today.
Our choice is to travel down the road of hope, stabilization and development. And that's just where the "silk road" might lead us all."
Source: National News Agency