.
.
.
.

Diplomats ponder aid to Lebanon in Syria’s wake

A string of car and suicide bomb attacks have targeted Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in recent months

Published: Updated:

A coalition of international diplomats and bankers will meet over a political and humanitarian crisis looming in Lebanon as it struggles with spillover from the war in neighboring Syria, a senior U.S. official said, according to the Associated Press.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced last week that the next meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon group would take place on March 5 in the French capital.

“It is more necessary than ever to protect Lebanon from the repercussions of the Syrian crisis, on the security, political and economic fronts,” Fabius wrote in a letter to his newly named Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil.

“It is in this spirit that the International Support Group for Lebanon will meet on March 5 in Paris,” Fabius added.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will return to France next week for the talks, according to Agence France-Presse.

The group was set up last year to help Lebanon deal with the implications of the brutal war in Syria that began in March 2011. It is intended to provide financial, political and security support to the small nation.

The group is made up of diplomats from the United Nations, Arab League, European Union and the World Bank.

It was hoped that the group would “be an active vehicle by which the international community can provide the support to promote stability” in Lebanon, Lawrence Silverman, acting deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, told lawmakers at a hearing on Tuesday, according to AFP.

“Secretary Kerry will attend the next gathering of this group... in Paris next week,” he added.

Kerry only returned from his last overseas trip on Friday, during which he spent three nights in the French capital.

Lebanon, which borders Syria, is a small country with just four million people, but now hosts some 930,000 refugees who have fled the three-year conflict as rebels battle to oust hardline Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“There is not a single Lebanese community that has not been affected by the refugee crisis,” Silverman highlighted.

“The United States is doing its part to help Lebanon deal with the burden, providing over $340 million in assistance. We urge other countries to meet the pledges that they have made,” he added.

The conflict has also inflamed sectarian tensions in Lebanon, with the powerful Shiite Hezbollah movement sending fighters to bolster Syria’s regime against a Sunni-led uprising many Sunni Lebanese support.

A string of car and suicide bomb attacks have targeted Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in recent months, killing dozens of civilians.

(With AFP and AP)