BEIRUT: The United States intends to increase aid to Lebanon help the country cope with the rising influx of Syria refugees, the American ambassador to Lebanon said during a meeting Monday with the head of the March 14 General Secretariat Fares Souaid.
“We seek to increase and expedite assistance both to refugees and to host Lebanese communities affected by the war in Syria,” David Hale said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
Hale met with Souaid, as well as other officials, at the March 14 General Secretariat headquarters in Ashrafieh.
The ambassador expressed his country’s awareness that Lebanon was heavily burdened by the massive influx of Syrian refugees, whose numbers have surpassed 790,000.
The United States has so far contributed over $254 million in aid to Lebanon and host communities, the statement said.
Hale added that money alone was not the solution, but that it was “necessary to find a lasting political resolution of the Syrian conflict – for which the [Syrian President Bashar Assad] regime bears full responsibility – based on the Geneva Communique.”
The Geneva Communique was produced by the international community in June 2012 as a road map to establish a transitional governing body in Syria, including members of the Syrian regime and the opposition.
Hale also said that “for the United States, it is clear that the [Assad] regime must go.”
The U.S. ambassador said it was important that Lebanon uphold the Baabda Declaration, which calls for distancing the country from regional and international conflicts, and other United Nations Security Council resolutions, including 1701 and 1559, as well as supporting the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
He noted that President Michel Sleiman followed up with the International Support Group for Lebanon last week, and that it was “a special thing” when international powers were able to agree on basic principles supporting the country.
“Our common agenda for Lebanon stands apart from any developments elsewhere in the Middle East,” he said.
The meeting at Baabda Palace last week was attended by the heads of mission and delegations of the Arab League, China, the European Union, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon and representatives of the UNHCR and the World Bank.
An international meeting at the U.N. General Assembly in September pledged $339 million in additional humanitarian aid in response to the Syrian crisis, including $74 million for Lebanon to support refugees.
“Together, the permanent members of the Security Council and Europe want Lebanon to be stable, prosperous, and apart from the conflict in Syria,” Hale added.
He claimed that the United States and the March 14 coalition held many common values and interests, “not least a desire to support Lebanon’s constitutional practices, institutions and democratic traditions, and the implementations of the Taif agreement.”
For his part, Souaid said he discussed local and regional issues with the ambassador, noting the importance of calling all Lebanese to adhere to the Taif Accord and respect all international resolutions, especially Resolution 1701, which includes a call to disarm nonstate groups in the country .