Lebanon News

Hariri asks Kaag, U.N. for help with refugee crisis

Prime Minister Saad Hariri receives U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag with a delegation in Beirut, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri told a U.N. delegation Monday that the most important goal of his government was to form a sustainable development plan and warned of the crippling effects of the Syrian refugee crisis on Lebanon. “The most important goal for our government is the formation of sophisticated and sustainable development for the country as a whole,” Hariri told to the delegation headed by U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag. Kaag, accompanied by Deputy Philippe Lazzarini, and the delegation met Hariri at the Grand Serail as the latter assured Kaag of Lebanon’s commitment to the United Nations.

“Lebanon is committed to the development and sustainability goals passed at the United Nations Summit in September 2015. From here, we will return to a comprehensive plan and well-prioritized road map to ensure that Lebanon, with the support and participation of all U.N. agencies, achieves these goals,” Hariri said.

Turning to the Syrian refugee crisis on Lebanon, Hariri was firm in saying that Lebanon needs help dealing with the situation. “Five years ago, our population was of 4.5 million and today we are at 6 million,” he said referring to the influx of refugees and other Syrians since the outbreak of the war in Syria.

Hariri asked the U.N. to assist Lebanon conduct a study of where the refugees reside as well as their impact on the economy, fiscal stance, public service and infrastructure.

“The international community has to help, because we have less electricity, less water, less infrastructure, fewer schools and less hospital beds. ... The country is suffering in all sectors, so there is a huge job to be done,” the premier added.

Hariri thanked the UNDP, heaping praise upon the agency, while calling for continued participation.

Kaag also stressed the importance of the “frank and open discussions as always on the areas of cooperation and support for Lebanon.”

The U.N. representative spoke of the parliamentary elections and increased female participation.

“We discussed a number of priorities this year, including the timely conduct of parliamentary elections. We certainly also hope for a relevant quota of women to be represented. We looked at an agenda for the prevention of violent extremism, knowing Lebanon is living and breathing in a very volatile region – and support for the Lebanese Armed Forces as well as the broader security apparatus,” Kaag said.

Kaag welcomed the formation of the new ministries under President Michel Aoun, such as the Ministry of State for Refugees, Ministry of State for Women and the Ministry for State for Combatting Corruption.

“Lebanon remains a regional asset ... We must do more as U.N. family to help Lebanon’s government and its people to counter [threats to tolerance and coexistence],” Kaag said. The two also discussed UNRWA and how it could help the Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

Prior to meeting Hariri, Kaag met with Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda where she conveyed greetings from newly appointed U.N. Secretary-General Ant?nio Guterres.

Aoun welcomed the aid to Lebanon from U.N. organizations while drawing attention to the ongoing positive cooperation between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army.

Kaag focused on the importance of committing to the U.N. Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 War with Israel, and the international body’s support for the new government.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 17, 2017, on page 1.

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