BEIRUT: France is working toward hosting a conference to assist Lebanon’s economy that has been hit hard by the crisis in Syria, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Monday, after meeting Arab and Western officials in Germany.
“Minister [Laurant] Fabius assured me France is determined to launch a new initiative to support Lebanon and deal with the economic repercussions of the Syria crisis,” a statement from Mikati’s office said.
“For this sake, France will hold a conference in Paris to be attended by friends of Lebanon and various Lebanese political components,” the statement added.
Mikati also said talks with various officials in Germany convinced him that the crisis in Syria was bound to linger for the foreseeable future.
“After the many meetings I held with Arab and global [officials] on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, I have become more convinced that there is no solution in the foreseeable future to the regional disputes with Syria being at the forefront, ” he said.
“The ultimate solution that could be reached is temporary solutions to address the urgent humanitarian needs and ease human losses,” Mikati added.
The statement said Mikati discussed the financial burden on Lebanon with officials in Munich. Among the items was the burden Lebanon was facing in hosting a large numbers of Syrian refugees.
The Syrian refugees currently now make up nearly a quarter of the population of tiny Lebanon.
Mikati reiterated his country’s concerns about the economic repercussions of the Syrian war on Lebanon, noting a World Bank report estimating the country had suffered $7.5 billion in economic losses since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011.
He renewed his call for the establishment of refugee camps inside Syria to help “shoulder the burden on its neighboring countries and on Syrians too.”
The caretaker prime minster also hailed Germany’s defense minister for providing assistance to the poorly equipped Lebanese Army and other security institutions, particularly the Lebanese Navy.
He reiterated calls for support from the president of the Swiss Confederation to help with the funding process for a trust fund aimed at helping Beirut deal with the fiscal impact of the Syrian crisis.
Mikati also discussed the regional situation and future prospects with the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey as well as Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Bogdanov, U.N. special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and the head of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres.
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton reiterated the EU’s support for Lebanon in terms of dealing with the negative consequences of the Syria conflict, according to the statement.
Ashton informed Mikati that the EU was in the process of determining the size of such aid.
According to the statement, the recent deal between over Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian issue were also among the topics discussed between Ashton and Mikati.