BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil issued a new appeal to the international community from Rome Wednesday to support Lebanon’s Army, saying a strong and united military was essential to fighting terrorism threatening Lebanon’s stability.
Bassil spoke following talks with his Italian counterpart Federica Mogherini in Rome focusing on bilateral ties and Italy’s preparations to host an international conference to support Lebanon’s Army and ailing economy as the country grapples with the devastating fallout of the 3-year-old war in neighboring Syria.
“Our goal is to build a strong Lebanese Army and a strong Lebanese state. A strong, solid, united and modern Army that has technological means and capabilities that can help it to play a major role in protecting the Lebanese from terrorism inside [the country] and protecting external borders,” Bassil told a joint conference with Mogherini.
“Peace is a goal which we are seeking. A strong Lebanese Army is the means to attain this,” he added.
Bassil said Lebanon’s appeal to the international community to support its Army comes in the framework of Lebanon’s desire to confront and destroy terrorism as it threatens the country’s security and stability.
“Terrorism is destroying Lebanon. Terrorism is destroying the Middle East. Terrorism is destroying the message of humane and peaceful openness which our land has been carrying for thousands of years,” he said. “Terrorism is a danger that has no limits or boundaries. It is blind and does not discriminate. It is a real threat that today is knocking on the doors of the European continent.”
Lebanon has been rocked by deadly car bombings and suicide attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda-linked groups mainly targeting areas the Bekaa Valley and Beirut’s southern suburbs, where Hezbollah enjoys wide support, in retaliation for its intervention in Syria. The attacks also targeted the Iranian Embassy and the Iranian Cultural Center in Beirut.
Earlier this month, Paris hosted an international conference that voiced verbal support for Lebanon’s Army and economy. However, the conference, convened by the International Support Group for Lebanon, and attended by the foreign ministers of 10 countries, including Britain, China, France, Russia, the U.S., Germany and Saudi Arabia, fell short of pledging tangible assistance.
The ISGL was launched in New York last September to support the country’s national institutions and Army, along with helping Lebanon cope with the influx of close to a million refugees from Syria.
Saudi Arabia announced last December that it provided Lebanon’s poorly equipped Army with a $3 billion grant under which it would receive the arms it needs from France. The ISGL is holding a conference in Rome later this year to tackle a means to strengthen the Army.
Bassil said the ISGL conference planned in Rome was “a confirmation of [global] support for Lebanon and real solidarity with our country.”
“It also reflects the world’s confidence in our country,” he said.
For her part, Mogherini said Italy saw an “important role” for Lebanon. “Terrorism is a major issue and Italy is concerned with working with Lebanon to fight it.”
She said a meeting at an expert level would be held in Rome on April 10, while a date would be set later for the ISGL conference at a ministerial level which is expected to be held within two months.