BEIRUT: Russia will work to boost the defense capacities of the Lebanese Army, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday, adding that his country respects the democratic process in Lebanon.
“Russia will enhance military cooperation with Lebanon, mainly by reinforcing the defense capabilities of the Lebanese Army and security forces,” Lavrov said during a joint news conference with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil in Moscow.
“We will present our contributions to the international community in the plan to reinforce the Lebanese Army and the state institutions,” he said, in reference to the work of the International Support Group for Lebanon.
Lavrov also said Russia would not interfere in the Lebanese presidential election.
“The presidential election is a Lebanese affair. ... Russia does not have any preferences concerning the presidential election,” Lavrov said. “We are looking forward to the presidential election.”
“Electing a new president could unite the Lebanese society,” he said.
He said that “Lebanon is a complicated country and the Constitution should be respected by everyone,” adding that his country would coordinate with anyone elected as the new head of state.
For his part, Bassil said Russia could play a prominent role in contributing to political stability in Lebanon and the Middle East.
He also said the Lebanese and Russia should cooperate regarding Lebanon’s oil resources and the Syrian refugee crisis. Lavrov proposed a “systematic solution” for the refugee issue rather than “temporary humanitarian assistance.”
Bassil, formerly energy minister, said Russia should take part in oil and gas exploration off Lebanon’s coast.
Bassil left Beirut Wednesday for Moscow on a two-day official visit to hold talks with Russian officials on bilateral ties and Russia’s role in the region.