BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said late Thursday that both he and French President Francois Hollande back U.N.-Arab envoy Kofi Annan’s peace initiative for Syria along with a non-violent democratic transition, as demanded by the "will of the people" in the Arab world.
“The two presidents stressed the need for the success of the peace initiative of U.N.-Arab envoy to Syria Kofi Annan,” according to a statement issued by Sleiman’s office.
The two also agreed on the necessity of peaceful democratic change in the region.
“There was agreement on the need for a transition through political means, as per the will of the people, that would not include violence and would respect the rights of the people who make up these nations,” the statement said.
During talks at Elysee Palace in Paris, Hollande expressed France’s strong commitment to the Lebanese Army and equipping it “in order for it to carry out its mission completely,” according to the statement.
Hollande also stressed the need to preserve Lebanon’s neutrality vis-a-vis regional developments and safeguard it from “what is occurring in countries in its environs.”
He also said it was essential the Middle East peace process be reactivated.
Additionally, talks tackled the issue of boosting bilateral relations in all areas, particularly the military, cultural, educational, health and trade levels, according to the statement.
During the discussion, Sleiman said it was necessary to ensure that the “painful events” in Syria do not spread to Lebanon and expressed his thanks to France for its contribution in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
The Lebanese president also requested military assistance for the Lebanese Army.
He thanked France for standing by Lebanon and its people and supporting it at regional and international forums.
Sleiman expressed gratitude to Hollande for France’s contribution to UNIFIL, which “safeguards people in the south and implements [United Nations Security Council Resolution] 1701.”
For his part, Hollande stressed France’s complete support for Lebanon “during this period, which is difficult given what is occurring in Syria.”
The statement issued by Sleiman’s office went on to say, “[Hollande] also voiced his backing of all the efforts undertaken by Sleiman and the Lebanese government for the unity, sovereignty and development [of Lebanon], noting that the France considers the presence of UNIFIL in south Lebanon means of expressing its support for Lebanon.”
The statement added that Sleiman said he had “not heard any demands from France and that what [Paris] is interested in is Lebanon’s stability and ensuring its sovereignty and safety.”