Lebanon’s prime minister appealed for support for his country from world powers on Friday at a summit convened by France to bolster Lebanon’s institutions as it emerges from a bizarre political crisis with regional and international implications.
Just before the gathering got underway, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed America’s backing for Lebanon’s “sovereignty, stability and independence,” while French President Emmanuel Macron called on Mideast countries to refrain from interfering in Lebanese domestic affairs.
Lebanese leaders say their country has earned the support on account of the burden of hosting Syrian refugees - 1 million of them, according to the United Nations, or close to a quarter of Lebanon’s own population.
“The stability of Lebanon necessarily depends on its capacity to cope with the economic and social challenges stemming essentially from the Syria crisis,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in opening remarks at the summit in Paris.
He called for investment in Lebanon, support for its security services, and a resolution to the refugee question that has dominated domestic politics since 2012.
First of its kind summit
It is the first major gathering of key nations to discuss Lebanon’s future since a crisis erupted following Hariri’s shock resignation last month while in Saudi Arabia which he later rescinded.
While the crisis was unfolding, French President Emmanuel Macron led diplomatic efforts to restore Hariri to his post and convince him to stay on as prime minister. The United States expressed support, recognizing Hariri as one of its chief partners in the Middle East.
In Paris, Hariri said he was “personally grateful” to the French president. Hariri said Lebanon was able to weather its crisis thanks to its international partners and that the country’s many parties affirmed their “commitment to dissociation from regional conflicts.”
Macron said the international community would have to “stay mobilized” for Lebanon’s peaceful future.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tillerson would affirm US support for Lebanon’s military. She said he would also encourage other nations to do more to constrain Hezbollah and argue that doing so will lead to a “stronger, more stable Lebanon.”
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