Lebanon Conference Calls for More Meetings to Aid CountryBy
Conferences in 2018 to focus on economy, military, refugees
France calls on Saudi, Iran to respect Lebanese sovereignty
A conference held in Paris to help Lebanon ended Friday with pledges to hold three more conferences in European cities next year to support the country’s efforts to avoid being engulfed by the Middle East’s conflicts.
A March conference in Paris will raise funds for building Lebanon’s infrastructure and economy. A Rome meeting earlier in the year will pledge help for Lebanon’s military, and a Brussels conference will raise money to help the 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The Paris conference was also meant as a show of support for Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who this week withdrew his resignation after winning pledges from parties in his cabinet to distance themselves from wider conflicts in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia had pushed for Hariri’s resignation to protest the growing influence of Iran-backed Hezbollah in the Lebanese government, analysts say.
“We note the support of the international community to the unity and integrity of Lebanon, and its desire to distance itself from regional conflicts,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. “We state our confidence in this country and in the model that it represents.”
Le Drian said Lebanon’s “dis-association” policy applied equally to Saudi Arabia and Iran. Friday’s meeting included representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Italy, Germany, and the European Union.
Hariri said his country needed help with the refugees. “Lebanon is paying an enormous price for the world,” Hariri said. “They have to eventually return home, but it has to be when their security is ensured. In the meantime we have to help them, but we need your help.”
Hariri also sad he wanted to see “tangible” results from the Rome conference, “not just pledges.” Past promises to help the Lebanese army from Saudi Arabia and others have been put on hold because of concerns the weapons could end up in the hands of Hezbollah.
— With assistance by Helene Fouquet