Official speeches and statements - December 11, 2017
1. Lebanon - Meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon - Statement by Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic (Paris - December 8, 2017)
I’m very pleased to welcome you to Paris today for a meeting to which I attach the utmost importance.
Lebanon has just gone through a period of uncertainty, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri has resumed his responsibilities as Prime Minister, heading his national unity government. This decision, taken with President Michel Aoun, follows intense consultations with all Lebanon’s political leaders. It’s a positive development—an essential one, in our view—and I want to welcome it.
We carefully noted the terms of the Council of Ministers’ decision, which accompanies it. The commitments it contains are essential and we would, of course, like them to be implemented in full. Significant threats continue to hang over Lebanon’s stability today, making strong, resolute support from the international community essential.
The crisis which has just occurred stems from internal factors, but it also stems from regional tensions casting a deep shadow over a country we all care about deeply. Lebanon’s stability isn’t just vital for its inhabitants, but for the whole region, which has already been greatly affected by violent conflict.
In order for Lebanon to be protected from these crises, it’s essential for the Lebanese parties and all the regional players to adhere to the fundamental principle of non-interference. Recent events have demonstrated that the Lebanese militia’s involvement in the clashes tearing apart the Middle East couldn’t continue without exposing all sectors of the Lebanese population to collateral damage.
Today’s meeting must show that the international community is determined to see the policy of dissociation from regional conflicts effectively implemented by everyone in the country. It’s at the heart of the Lebanese government’s commitment, made by every section of this national unity cabinet, Hezbollah included: non-interference in the region’s conflicts.
The sovereignty of Lebanon and its State, and its unity and territorial integrity are inviolable principles which must be respected by everyone, starting with the regional powers. Their disputes have already drastically changed the destiny of too many peoples; Lebanon mustn’t be either the focus or fundamental issue in these conflicts, or be actively involved in them. In this respect, I really don’t want the initiatives taken on Jerusalem’s status, which must above all be the subject of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, under the aegis of the United Nations, to add to the region’s instability. So following the US President’s announcement the day before yesterday, I appeal here for everyone to act calmly and responsibly, which is essential for supporting the efforts we’re conducting today.
It’s also vital for Lebanon to be able to continue the process already under way and succeed in taking up several of the challenges it is posed today. The first challenge is to carry out its radical political reform and get its institutions up and running again. The Lebanese will go to the polls in May 2018 to elect their representatives in Parliament; it will be an important moment for Lebanon and Lebanese young people. There’s been no general election since 2009, and many young Lebanese will be voting for the first time in May. Lebanon must go on being a model of democracy, co-existence and tolerance. It’s vital for the region.
The second challenge is security. I want to pay tribute here to the courage of the Lebanese army which, in the summer of 2017, the pillar of the nation and guarantor of its unity, won a decisive victory against the terrorists of Daesh [so-called ISIL] and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Many Lebanese soldiers paid the price of that courageous battle with their blood, their lives, and here I want to pay tribute to them and their families. The fight against terrorism is a long-term battle. It isn’t over, but compels us to remain united.
In the south of the country, in order to take up the security challenge, UNIFIL is continuing to play an essential role and helping preserve peace and stability along the Blue Line, and I welcome the fact that it has recently stepped up its patrols on the ground; these are encouraging new measures and must be continued. We want to avoid new conflicts, at all costs. The full implementation of Resolution 1701 is the most effective way of ensuring this. This is what lies behind France’s commitment in the framework of the force, in which it has been constantly present since 1978, and its cooperation with the Lebanese army. Two countries represented today—Italy and Germany—are participating alongside us in UNIFIL in the effort to bring peace. In conjunction with the United Nations representative, let me salute their commitment. I also want to salute the United States for the critical assistance it lent the Lebanese army.
The third challenge is economic development, against the background of no political solution in Syria and a protracted refugee crisis. Only ending the violence and implementing a political transition will allow the Syrian families taken in by Lebanon to return [to Syria], with due regard for the principles of international humanitarian law, which France remains firmly committed to.
But while the number of refugees in Lebanon remains stable, their living conditions and those of the poorest Lebanese people are constantly deteriorating, and in this respect I want to pay tribute to the generosity the Lebanese—just like the Jordinians and Turks—are showing by humanely taking in several million refugees.
So against this background it’s imperative for the international community to remain mobilized for Lebanon and in order to strengthen the Lebanese State and its institutions, which are the most effective bulwark against regional stability.
A great deal has already been done since 2013, [including] the creation of the International Support Group, which we’ve convened today. But we’ve got to do more on the security, humanitarian and economic fronts, and this must be the goal of today’s meeting.
It is of the utmost importance that we increase our mobilization in order to strengthen the Lebanese armed forces, which are key to the country’s security and the conditions for its national unity. Italy was a trailblazer in 2014, organizing a conference in Rome in support of the Lebanese armed forces. France will join forces with Italy and the United Nations to follow up this conference in the very first few weeks of 2018.
The international community has strongly committed itself to Lebanon over the past few years to tackle the humanitarian crisis. And I want here to pay tribute to the effective action led by the UNHCR. Spurred on by the European Union, Germany and the United Kingdom, the Berlin, London and Brussels conferences of 2015, 2016 and 2017 provided Lebanon with greater support. This support nevertheless remains inadequate compared to the country’s immense needs. The Brussels II Conference, which the EU High Representative is preparing in consultation with member states, will provide the opportunity—also in the first two months of 2018—for all of us to increase our support. France intends to contribute actively to it.
Finally, on the economic front, a further effort is necessary to support the spirit of responsibility which, precisely, has guided the Lebanese decisions of the past few weeks. France has always shouldered its responsibilities to enable Lebanon to rebuild itself, particularly in the years following the end of the civil war. The effects of the Syria crisis are making necessary today the organization of a new conference to support Lebanon’s economy. It is due to be held in the first four months of 2018. We’re working actively with Germany and the Lebanese authorities on an investment plan centered on the country’s infrastructure, in conjunction with the World Bank, the UNDP and all Lebanon’s major economic partners. (...)
The Foreign Minister and I are very pleased to welcome you to Paris, in the presence of the Lebanese Prime Minister, for this meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon, which France has the honor of co-chairing with the United Nations, which I want to thank again for being here through the Deputy Secretary-General, Mrs. Amina Mohammed.
I welcome the ministers and the representatives of countries and organizations who are here. Your mobilization bears witness to the international community’s determination to rally round a country whose vulnerabilities we know, but we also know how vitally important it is for the whole region.
Lebanon isn’t just a friend of France, hugely important as that is; it’s a country in which many of the whole region’s balances are played out, it’s also a model of pluralism, a model showing that everyone has the ability to respect minorities and the plurality of religions.
But I say this with a great deal of conviction and very forcefully today: none of the region’s problems will be solved by unilateral decisions, by the maxim "might is right" or by the humiliation of others. The balances in the region will be built only by being able to protect the pluralism history has given it; and in this respect Lebanon is a model.
So the decisions taken over the past few weeks by President Macron and the Lebanese Prime Minister are key in order for Lebanon to continue playing this role for itself and the whole region in the coming months and years.
And that’s why we’re gathered here today, at your side. The international community will step up to the plate, because Lebanon carries a universal message of peace and tolerance, because it’s a symbolic country, a sister country, a strategic country which we’re defending.