In a press release by the British Embassy in Beirut, it said: “Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex, ended a two day visit to Lebanon accompanied by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Foreign Office Minister, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, and Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Her Royal Highness’s first official visit to Lebanon and the Middle East reflects her commitment to women’s empowerment, promoting tolerance, and addressing gender-based violence in conflict. The Countess of Wessex saw the work of charitable foundations and NGOs in Lebanon offering support to the most vulnerable communities particularly women and children. Accompanied by Lord Ahmad and British Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling, Her Royal Highness met with the President of the Republic Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. These discussions focused on the friendship and strong bilateral relations between Lebanon and the UK.
In the Bekaa, the Countess visited an informal tented settlement and met with Syrian female heads of households and heard stories of their living conditions in Lebanon. The UN’s World Food Programme funded by DFID supports the most severely vulnerable families, meeting their most urgent needs of food, household supplies and medication.
In Baysour, the Countess of Wessex met with Lebanese and Syrian women taking part in the Mechanism for Social stability programme part of the Lebanon Host Communities Support Programme (LHSP ), run by UNDP and the Ministry of Social of Affairs, aimed at building social peace and stability across communities.
Her Royal Highness and Lord Ahmed met with staff of the British Embassy in Beirut, and visited the memorial olive tree of Rebecca Dykes at the Embassy’s garden.
Her Royal Highness later joined a roundtable discussion with Syrian NGOs working to improve women’s participation in the peace process. They discussed how the UK could help ensure women’s voices are heard in Syria and in the region. In parallel, Her Royal Highness visited a shelter run by Caritas supporting survivors of sexual violence. HRH spoke to the women and listened to their stories, and how the support they are receiving from Caritas and the British Embassy is helping them through legal support an improved access to justice.
At the end of the visit, Her Royal Highness and Lord Ahmed were warmly received as guests of honour at the Queen’s Birthday Party reception hosted by Ambassador Chris Rampling at the Lebanese National Library. HRH met with a multitude of Lebanese guests and toured the inside of the Library where The Countess saw an exhibition emphasising Lebanon and the UK’s strong friendship looking back into the past, present and future. It included WFP’s iris scanners, MAGs demining devices, beautiful artwork by Tom Young, 1000 year old artefacts from Sidon excavation, the Debbas Collection from the Sursock Museum amongst the exhibitors and more.
Her Royal Highness delivered a message on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen at the Queen’s Birthday Party:
‘I am delighted that my daughter-in-law is with you this evening.
The United Kingdom recognises Lebanon as a symbol of diversity, tolerance and resilience, and I hope that the strong bond of friendship between our two countries will continue for many years.
Prince Philip and I send our warmest good wishes to the people of Lebanon, and to all those attending this evening’s reception’.
At the end of the royal visit to Lebanon, British Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling addressed more than 700 guests and said:
‘I am honoured and thrilled to welcome Her Royal Highness, The Countess of Wessex and Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon to Lebanon. This is a very special moment for the friendship between the UK and Lebanon. It is a testament to the strong bilateral relationships on several levels. I am pleased that HRH and Lord Ahmed saw firsthand how UK aid funding is supporting the most vulnerable communities and refugees across Lebanon: Lebanese, Syrians and others. Lebanon hosts more refugees per capita than any other country in the world. I am greatly honoured to have HRH as the guest of honour at this year’s Queen’s Birthday Celebrations which celebrate the best of Great Britain and Lebanon.’
Ambassador Rampling announced that the British Embassy will be making 2019 the ‘Year of Education’, creating a better tomorrow for youth through UKaid and British Council support.
He added: ‘I want to thank all the sponsors who have made tonight possible. And particular thanks to our hosts the National Library of Lebanon and the Minister of Culture. This is a fantastic venue, and we are looking forward to the partnership that is developing well with the British Library.
The UK’s relationship with Lebanon is stronger than ever – we are spending more in 2019 than we did in 2018…
Of course, Lebanon is today facing many challenges. I pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the terrible attack in Tripoli last week, and commend our partners in the security agencies for the work that they do to keep Lebanon safe. The Economy is on everyone’s mind, and the Government’s recent steps have started the work of reform under CEDRE, which we hope in time will attract more investment, including from the UK. And we know the challenge of refugees for the country: we will continue to support the Lebanese people as well as the refugees themselves.
And so tonight we celebrate what binds together the UK and Lebanon – the richness of our culture, our heritage, our shared history. Our modern, forward-looking, innovative societies. Our shared, exciting future.’
National Defence Minister Elias Bou Saab, MP Yassine Jaber and Interior Minister Raya El Hassan represented President General Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri respectively.
About The Countess of Wessex:
A full-time working member of the Royal Family, The Countess of Wessex splits her time between her work in support of The Queen and visits to a large number of her own charities and organisations. She is married to Prince Edward, third son of Her Majesty The Queen. She has a wide range of interests which include supporting people with disabilities, the prevention of blindness in developing countries, agriculture and fashion.
Much of the day-to-day working life of The Countess of Wessex is taken up with her roles as Patron of over 70 charities and organisations. Each year, Her Royal Highness undertakes hundreds of visits to schools, universities, military bases and charity headquarters in order to learn more about their work, and to highlight it to the wider world.”
Source: National News Agency