BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman insisted on maintaining Lebanon’s goal of finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis, during a meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Nice over the weekend.
The president made the comments while marking the official handover of the Francophone Games torch from Lebanon to the French team.
Discussions between both presidents revolved around recent regional developments, particularly Syria. Sleiman stressed the need to “uphold long-standing principles to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis.”
Sleiman has urged Lebanese parties to distance the country from the Syrian conflict and reiterated calls for a political solution to end the ongoing crisis.
He also stressed the importance of fortifying Lebanese relations with France for the purpose of supporting the Army to ensure it can safeguard national security and manage the borders, as he attended the inauguration of the 7th Francophone Games.
The tournament will run from Sept. 7 to 15.
The two leaders also discussed ongoing preparations for a conference to boost international support for Lebanon’s state institutions, economy and the Army, as well as help manage its Syrian refugee population.
Sleiman voiced hope that democracy would eventually take root after the current turmoil that is gripping the Middle East subsides, bringing stability to the region.
“I reassure you that after the present circumstances, we will witness a breakthrough [in the region] that ... will help us achieve political stability,” Sleiman said.
For his part, Hollande expressed his country’s support for Lebanon “in all aspects, and its keenness that the upcoming meeting of international supporters in New York this month would be successful.”
The United Nations-organized meeting in New York is set to be held on Sept. 25 to discuss ways of managing the 700,000-plus displaced Syrians who have sought refuge in Lebanon, taxing its infrastructure, social services and economy.
Sleiman had discussed the refugee crisis with ambassadors from the five permanent member states of the Security Council, as well as a representative of U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, and representatives from the European Union and the Arab League, to prepare for the meeting.
Also Saturday, Sleiman met and discussed bilateral relations with Secretary General of the International Organisation of la Francophonie Abdo Diouf.
Diouf said there was “continuous cooperation between Lebanon and the International Organisation of la Francophonie,” praising “the role that Lebanon plays in this area.”
He added that he fully supported the democratic path followed by Sleiman, as well as his dialogue-centered approach to solving regional and national disputes.
Caretaker Culture Minister Gaby Layoun was also present at the meeting in France, as were a number of Lebanese representatives.
Addressing the Lebanese delegation, which included Deputy Prime Minister Samir Moqbel, Sleiman noted how important the success of the 6th Francophone Games was to Beirut, adding that France, and other French-speaking countries, considered it the best one so far.
He acknowledged Lebanon’s current instability, but praised the country’s youths for protecting Lebanon from full-fledged strife.
“Lebanon’s youths have the will and are capable of achieving more than [the youth of] any other country,” Sleiman said.
“They resisted and triumphed over Israel, the strongest country in the Middle East, and were able, with the Lebanese Army, to also defeat terrorism,” he said.
The president also visited and expressed admiration for the exhibition at the Lebanese pavilion at the Francophone Village Sunday, and reiterated his hope that the delegation would triumph at the games.