BEIRUT: The International Support Group for Lebanon emphasized Wednesday the country’s dire need for assistance to cope with the overwhelming number of Syrian refugees, and to address the country's pressing security needs.
In its summary statement issued by the U.N. Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman, the group, which includes the five permanent members of the Security Council, also stressed the importance of all Lebanese parties committing to the Baabda Declaration and the policy of disassociation.
During the opening ceremony, President Michel Sleiman said international assistance for the Lebanese Army was needed to successfully implement his national defense strategy, which suggested the incorporation of Hezbollah’s arms under Lebanese Army command.
Sleiman, who met separately with French President Francois Hollande and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, also sought financial assistance to help his government with the rising number of Syrian refugees.
The ISGL, which was created in New York last year to support the country’s national institutions and Army, also “emphasized the crucial importance for confidence and stability in Lebanon of the presidential and parliamentary elections being conducted on time on the basis of Lebanon’s constitutional procedures and democratic practice.”
“Recognizing the increased terrorist threat to Lebanese civilians, participants underlined the need for a comprehensive response to it, including further international support to the Lebanese security services,” the group said in a statement after the end of the opening ceremony of the two-day conference in Paris.
“They reiterated that there should be no impunity in Lebanon, and noted that the trial in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon opened on 16 January 2014,” it added.
The group also highlighted the critical role played by the Lebanese Army in working to address the growing threats to security in Lebanon and along its borders as a result of the Syrian crisis, stressing the need to further strengthen the military’s capabilities.
Members welcomed international assistance already given in line with the Army’s five-year capabilities development plan, including a $3 billion Saudi grant, as well as the future conference in Rome aimed at providing the military with international assistance.
As for the burden posed by the three-year-old crisis in neighboring Syria, the ISGL called for greater “burden-sharing,” encouraging the government to coordinate closely with the U.N. and other partners to address the critical humanitarian needs of refugees in Lebanon.
“They welcomed continuing efforts to expand resettlement programs for Syrian refugees and encouraged the international community to look for ways to further assist in this regard,” the statement said.
“Participants reiterated their concern at the severe negative impact of the Syrian conflict on vulnerable communities and key sectors in Lebanon, including health, education, infrastructure and employment,” it added.
They encouraged the Government of Lebanon and partners to swiftly work on implementing the “Roadmap for Stabilization” developed during the first ISG meeting in partnership with the World Bank and the U.N.
“They encouraged further such assistance both through existing humanitarian and development instruments and through the World Bank-managed Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Lebanon,” it said, thanking Norway, France and Finland, and the World Bank for their initial contributions.
While welcoming the formation of a new government, the ISGL highlighted the “paramount importance of the government being able to address the immediate economic, security and humanitarian challenges facing the country effectively and without delay.”
The international group thanked President Michel Sleiman for his leadership to promote dialogue and safeguard Lebanon from the impact of the conflict in Syria.
“They stressed the importance of the commitment by all Lebanese parties to the Baabda Declaration and Lebanon’s policy of disassociation,” it said.