Lebanon News

Bassil inks 12 deals on Latin America tour

Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil (L) receives the key to the city of Caracas from Mayor Jorge Rodriguez during their meeting in Caracas February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil concluded his tour of Latin American countries after having signed 12 agreements, he announced in a news conference in Beirut Friday.

Twelve memoranda of understanding were signed with different countries during the trip, Bassil said, explaining why maintaining bonds with Latin America is of critical importance to Lebanon.

“There are around 12 million Lebanese in that area of the world,” the minister said. “Three times Lebanon’s population.”

Among those, around 107 hold “high rank official posts,” he added, citing Mexico as an example, where seven of the 18 Cabinet ministers are of Lebanese origins.

Bassil underlined the need to give the diaspora Lebanese citizenship.

“It is unacceptable that Lebanon lets go of its people and instead receives other people, brethren people,” Bassil said, referring to Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war into Lebanon.

“This is why we consider the citizenship-restoration law as a top national priority,” he said. “Now the Lebanese are being displaced, and are being replaced by other citizens, brethren people.”

Bassil compared 2015 to 1915, when hundreds of thousands emigrated from what is now known as Lebanon to other parts of the world during World War I fleeing famine. A large part of those headed to Latin America.

Recounting his recent visits to 10 countries and 20 cities in Latin America, Bassil emphasized the need to boost economic and cultural interaction between Lebanon and the continent.

“The economic relations are very low,” he said.

“The Lebanese exports to all of Latin America are only worth $38 million, which is 1 percent of Lebanon’s overall exports.”

Economically, the most important project would be to create and activate marine and air transportation, because “not a single transportation line is open between Lebanon and Latin America,” the minister said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 07, 2015, on page 3.

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