The second conference in support of the Lebanese people convened in Paris, this evening, at the invitation of French President, Emmanuel Macron, who chaired the meeting along with UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. Several Presidents, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and officials of non-governmental and civil organizations and associations, in addition to international financial institutions, also participated in the conference.
President Aoun spoke at the conference (Speech distributed earlier), in the presence of the Caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister, Charbel Wehbe.
At first, French President Emmanuel Macron talked about the conference, its importance and purpose, stressing that it is important to intervene to help Lebanon, which is drowning more in its crisis, while the duty imposes help and responding to its real needs, and this move includes many countries, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, organizations since more than 20 percent of the Lebanese live below poverty line.
President Macron pointed out that a fund, managed by the World Bank will be established to contribute to providing humanitarian aid to Lebanon, and France will contribute to this fund, and that he himself is betting on all the participants to do the same.
The French President stressed that Paris’ support for the Lebanese people exists and will remain, but it cannot replace the work of the local authorities, indicating that this second conference aims to help Lebanon stand up and restore its activity and image after the explosion that occurred last August 4.
In addition, President Macron considered that work must be done to form a Government as soon as possible to carry out the reforms required by the international community, “Otherwise Lebanon will not receive international aid”.
“We will not abandon our support and our goal of reconstruction, nor our insistence on knowing the full circumstances of the explosion and the investigations regarding it, and I will return to Lebanon within this month to follow-up this matter” President Macron stated.
Then President Macron spoke to Mrs. Alicia Nader from the “Beit Al Baraka” Association, Mr. Malek Khami from the “Amel” Foundation, and Mrs. Samar Abu Jaoudeh from the Lebanese Red Cross, who are among the civil societies and non-governmental organizations which have contributed to helping the citizens affected by the explosion that occurred in the Beirut port on the fourth of last August. They discussed about the suffering of citizens and their needs due to the results of the explosion and the interaction with them and the aid that arrived to them and the need for more of this aid.
Speech of UN Secretary-General:
Afterwards, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who was chairing the conference, stressed the importance of meeting the needs of the Lebanese, especially those who are mostly in need of assistance and reconstruction with the support of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other countries and organizations.
“We can also contribute to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Beirut in order to restore the beating heart of Lebanon, but this matter requires fundamental reforms which are inevitable, and the people’s voice must be heard. We must call, with one voice, to the leadership in Lebanon to set aside all political differences and interests and meet the needs of the citizens” Guterres added.
The UN Secretary-General also asserted that “The UN will continue to support Lebanon and its people in the long march to restore health and stability”.
World Bank President:
Then, World Bank President, Mr. David Malpass, spoke and expressed the World Bank’s readiness to assist the Lebanese people and institutions, by contributing with other institutions and countries. Mr. Malpass also affirmed the bank’s commitment to help Lebanon implement the provisions of the road map to better reconstruct the Beirut Port, renewing the call to the Lebanese authorities to set up a social safety net and to engage in comprehensive necessary reforms, including reforms of the financial sector.
President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said that he was personally affected by the tragic consequences of the Beirut Port explosion, which made matters more complicated and harsh for the Lebanese due to the economic crisis and Corona pandemic. Michel also mentioned the aid provided by the Council to meet Lebanese urgent needs, amounting to more than 70 million Euros, stating that they will continue to provide an active role for assistance.
“We are intensifying our activities in this field and also in meeting the medical and social needs of Syrian refugees. Our aid in this field has reached around 100 million Euros, in addition to 69 million others provided by other European countries. I am pleased to announce that we have, in cooperation with our partners in the UN and World Bank, a framework for recovery and reconstruction to put the sums of money into effect, but we have to look to the future, and the time has come for Lebanese leaders to take the required initiative to change the course of necessary reforms. Negotiations with the IMF must return quickly. We are committed to the independence, sovereignty and freedom of Lebanon. Lebanon is an old friend and partner of the EU, and the Lebanese can count on us” Michel said.
Egyptian President, Muhammad Al-Sisi, spoke about the importance of this conference as a message of support from Lebanon’s friends for Lebanon and its people, as Lebanon is not alone, and what Egypt did as a quick response after the tragic event in the capital Beirut, on more multiple levels, in solidarity with the Lebanese brothers who are in going through a difficult situation.
President Al-Sisi pointed out that despite the international differences on Lebanese affairs, we must agree on the importance of standing by this country and not leaving it alone to face challenges, the most important of which is overcoming its current political crisis. The Egyptian President also called on everyone in Lebanon to put the national interest first and to accelerate the formation of an independent Government capable of facing challenges and securing the needs and national unity of Lebanon and the Lebanese, and to spare the country the repercussions of these challenges.
In addition, Al-Sisi considered that Lebanon must be spared the repercussions of regional events, and institutions should be strengthened in Lebanon, stressing that this conference is a message to Lebanese politicians that the world is ready to help Lebanon when a Government of technocrats and specialists is formed, far from the political alignment, and this is the Lebanese’s demand, as there is no solution to the problem except by meeting the demands of the Lebanese people and restoring the confidence of the Arab and international communities.
The President of Cyprus, Nikos Anastasiades, expressed the world’s desire to help Lebanon overcome the current crisis, stressing that Lebanese stability and the comfort of its people is the priority of Cyprus, which donated 5 million Euros and made its way to schools and hospitals which were affected by the recent explosion to rebuild them. The Cypriot President also said that the Cypriot people also donated many equipment to support the Lebanese, asserting the necessity of the establishment of an inclusive Government which is capable of moving and coordinating with the international community to save Lebanon.
Italian Prime Minister:
The Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, affirmed that the Government and people of Italy stand by Lebanon and the Lebanese, reminding the Italian to move quickly to support the Lebanese people to overcome the disastrous effects which Beirut witnessed.
PM Conte renewed the call he made in Beirut, during his visit last September, for reform and the establishment of an effective and transparent Government to deal with the economic and social situation and alleviate the suffering of the people. Conte concluded declaring the continuation of Italian work on Lebanese soil to support the Lebanese and their right to peace and security.
Swedish Prime Minister:
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven indicated that his country stands with the international community by Lebanon, confronting the problems it faces on multiple levels, including the presence of Syrian and Palestinian refugees on Lebanese soil. Lofven called for the acceleration of the formation of a Government to communicate with the world in order to help and meet the demands of the Lebanese through transparency and the fight against corruption.
The Swedish Premier also stressed that the role of women should be effective in securing the future of Lebanon, and that Sweden continues to support Lebanon. “We have provided $ 21 million in humanitarian aid, and we have also decided to extend our aid in relation to the Syrian crisis for three years” he concluded.
Iraqi Prime Minister:
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kademi, affirmed that Iraq will always stand by Lebanon, which will undoubtedly continue, reviewing the swift action taken by his country to support the Lebanese after the tragedy that befell them last August 4, which came to increase the accumulation of problems which the Lebanese people are encountering.
Al-Kademi stressed the importance of help from the international community, non-governmental organizations, civil societies and the private sector, to join the process of support, pointing out that “Iraq, which suffers from similar challenges, is looking forward to benefiting from the lessons of this experience with the belief that the priority is the development of good governance and responding to the aspirations of the peoples of the region to reach prosperity and stability.
Kuwaiti Prime Minister:
The Kuwaiti Prime Minister, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled, presented the crises that unfolded in Lebanon, and spoke about the importance of this second conference, which expresses everyone’s willingness to provide assistance and ensure stability and security for the brotherly country. He also referred to Kuwait’s urgent action to help financially and through other medical and food aid programs.
The Kuwaiti Premier then stressed that all international work remains incomplete unless the Lebanese themselves move to ensure their national interests are secured through their unity.
Jordanian King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein stressed that the most important message that this conference sends is that the Lebanese are not alone, indicating that the difficult situations have complicated Lebanese matters. He said that Jordan is looking at all possible ways to help the Lebanese people by facilitating commercial movement and providing strategies to facilitate the business sector.
King Abdullah also stated that Lebanon has always been present to support and assist others, and today it is necessary for us to reciprocate Lebanon, as there are concerns not only related to the lack of food, but also the scarcity of materials needed to produce basic local goods.
King Abdullah concluded by calling to exert all efforts to consider the various means of support that can be provided to the Lebanese people, be it humanitarian, economic or diplomatic.
Swiss President, Simonetta Sommaruga, offered the Swiss move to assist Lebanon continuously for more than a year, due to the economic and social crisis and its consequences due to the Corona pandemic and the Beirut port explosion. She believed that the Lebanese crisis cannot be solved through international assistance only, as there is the responsibility of the Lebanese authorities to carry-out necessary reforms, adopt the rehabilitation path, and listen to the demands of the Lebanese.
Canadian Prime Minister:
Canadian Premier, Justin Trudeau, considered what happened in Lebanon as a difficult tragedy, expressing once again the solidarity of his country and the Canadians with the Lebanese, mentioning the emergency move that his country took immediately after the events of August 4. He announced that the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs visited Beirut, as did many Canadian bodies, to provide assistance, but there must be action for the Lebanese, as the Swiss President said, in order to ensure the success of the initiatives and actions.
Trudeau concluded stressing the importance of fundamental reforms based on transparency, and that Canada would continue to demand this matter for a better future.
Spanish Prime Minister:
Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, stressed the importance of establishing a Government quickly to form a valid basis for cooperation with the international community, restoring its confidence and attracting investors, pointing out that Lebanon is a model for coexistence between religions and a safe haven for all who have sought refuge.
“Spain is ready to help through its commitment to Lebanon’s security in its participation in the UNIFIL, and will continue to do so, providing the necessary support financially and through basic materials, and assisting children affected by the explosion by helping rehabilitate schools located within the explosion region, and developing a plan for future technical assistance” the Spanish Premier concluded.
Greek Prime Minister:
Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, spoke about the friendship between Lebanon and Greece, and thus the country’s standing by Lebanon in this difficult situation it passes through. He expressed the necessity that Lebanese authorities take a transparent reform step to show the seriousness of the international community who is willing to help, asserting his country’s willingness to continue supporting the Lebanese, who today find themselves in need of help due to the difficulties they are facing.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, acclaimed the French move to help Lebanon and criticized the slow actions of Lebanese officials in facing the challenges and problems and the consequences of the Beirut port explosion. He believed that a government capable of carrying out reforms should be formed soon and the international community should help in this matter by providing direct assistance to the Lebanese.
He offered American aid to Lebanon, considering that any future aid should be based on the Lebanese carrying out the necessary economic reforms, and respecting the people’s desire for transparency, accountability and creating economic opportunities.
He added that Hezbollah’s influence has increased instability in Lebanon, and contrary to Lebanese interests, Hezbollah fought Iran’s battles in the region from Syria to Yemen, and the international community should declare the party a terrorist organization.
The speech presented by the European Union’s representative of foreign policy , Josep Borrell, pointed out that half of the Lebanese society is below the poverty line, and that the unemployment rate has reached 30%, in addition to a lot of suffering among the Lebanese.
He pointed out that the European Union had secured urgent assistance, but Lebanon needs to recover in a good and permanent way while transparency must be adopted with accountability and Lebanese civil society participation.
He added “we have worked with the World Bank and the United Nations to develop a plan for recovery and reconstruction.”
He believed that in order for Lebanon to truly overcome its crisis, the Lebanese must unite and establish a government that is capable of taking necessary steps, otherwise there will not be reform and it will not be easy to continue to demand international support.
He noted that the priority is now to get out of the economic crisis, referring to a very important issue of Lebanon hosting the largest number of refugees and this remarkable generosity must be appreciated.
Secretary General of the Arab League:
The Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, spoke about continuing to support Lebanon and its people in during the difficult phase. He reviewed the aid that came from the Arab League after the port explosion, including the contribution from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, about 7 million dollars in relief and humanitarian aid for reconstruction, and the Union of Arab Banks opening unified accounts in various branches in the Arab countries to donate in support of those affected by the disaster.
He warned of the danger that Lebanon would lose the world’s interest and sympathy if the state of political paralysis continued, calling for the establishment of a government soon, and affirming his appeal not to punish the Lebanese people for that.
A number of officials expressed solidarity of their countries and institutions with Lebanon and its people, pledging to continue to provide humanitarian and necessary assistance, with an emphasis on expediting the formation of an effective government to begin coordination with the international community for concrete steps on the road to saving Lebanon from its crisis.
The officials were: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christina Georgieva, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Eriksen Suredi, Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurria, Dutch Foreign Minister Stephanos Abraham Block, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, Ernesto Araujo, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Djebe Kovod, President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer, Belgian Minister of Cooperation Maryam Keter, British Minister of State for Middle East Affairs James Cleverley, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haresto, Croatian Foreign Minister Goren Radman, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi, Foreign Minister Slovakia Ivan Korcuk, Japanese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ichiro Washio, Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Walid Al-Khuraiji, Vice President of the International Red Cross Gilles Carbonayer, Chinese Ambassador to France Le Shaye, Russian Ambassador to France Alexander Zizulin, Sami Atallah from the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Fadlallah Dagher from the Beirut Heritage initiative, Noel Abi Nader from the MAN Foundation, Ayman Muhanna from the Samir Kassir Foundation.
Source: National News Agency