BEIRUT: European Union and Arab foreign ministers Wednesday called on Lebanese parties to quickly elect a president, expressing concern over the Syrian crisis’s impact on Lebanon.
“The Ministers underlined the importance of Lebanon to uphold its long standing democratic tradition, working to ensure that presidential elections take place as soon as possible,” said the joint declaration adopted in the Third European Union–League of Arab States Foreign Affairs Ministerial Meeting in Athens, Greece.
Lebanon entered presidential vacuum on May 25, with the end of former President Michel Sleiman 6-year term.
The declaration also stressed on the necessity of holding parliamentary elections on time, respecting the democratic cycle in the country.
The Lebanese parliament had extended its term for 17 months in a 10-minutes session last May, without referring to any popular referendum. The excuse for the extension was the dangerous security circumstances particularly in Tripoli, north Lebanon.
The declaration also tackled the issue of the Syrian refugee crisis, underlining “the importance of supporting efforts exerted by the international community, including the International Support Group for Lebanon, to help Lebanon mitigate the effects of the Syrian crisis.”
In this vein, the declaration called for the international community to back the Lebanese government as it faces the challenges raised by the refugee crisis.
Likewise, it stressed the need for collective support of the Lebanese Armed Forces, to help it “protect Lebanon and ensure security throughout Lebanese territory.” It also welcomed the convening of a conference to support Lebanese Armed Forces in Rome on June 17.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil addressed the conference with a speech in which he warned against the excessive flow of Syrian refugees to Lebanon.
“Times are crucial for Lebanon; the demographic and socio-economic realities are changing drastically and threatening the existence of our country,” he said, calling on the EU to further help his government face the refugee challenge.
Mentioning the rise in unemployment rates, the expanding number of school students and economic losses, Bassil said that “this situation cannot last without really exploding.”
“Lebanon's stability is not only at threat, it is its existence that is at stake when more than 50 percent of its population are foreigners, namely Syrians and Palestinians," he said, while announcing the Cabinet’s strategy to halt the refugee flow.