Lebanese President Michel Aoun yesterday condemned Israel’s recent threats to his country and intervention in its affairs, describing them as an “act of war”.
“Lebanon is a country that believes in peace and renounces wars,” Aoun explained during a meeting with the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Pernille Dahler Kardel. “The regular Israeli officials’ threats are unacceptable and we consider them to be an act of war against Lebanon.” His country, he stressed, is keen to strengthen security and stability on its southern border [with Israel].”
Relations between Lebanon and Israel have been strained in recent months, especially after Israel’s construction of a border wall and Lebanon’s oil and gas exploration works near disputed territorial waters. In addition, there is the “growing arsenal of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah,” which Israel considers as its main enemy.
President Aoun thanked Kardel and the UN Secretary-General António Guterres for their efforts during the Lebanon-focused Rome II Conference held on 15 March. The conference discussed ways to enhance the capabilities of the Lebanese army and security forces, after the international community had sensed the difficult security conditions and instability in Lebanon.
Aoun also expressed his country’s keenness to continue its cooperation with the UN, particularly during the upcoming Brussels Conference on 24 April, in which the issue of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon will be on the agenda. The Lebanese government currently pays around $7 billion on provision for Syrian refugees at a time when it is suffering from an economic deficit. According to the International Monetary Fund, the country’s Gross Domestic Product has dropped from eight per cent before the 2011 Syrian crisis to 1.1 per cent.
The UN’s Kardel briefed President Aoun on the Organisation’s preparations for the upcoming donor conference, which will take place in Paris next Tuesday with the aim of gathering support for the Lebanese economy. The government is planning to showcase 250 projects during the conference as part of a state-run $17 billion investment programme.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in Beirut recently that he hoped that the conference would attract 500 participants, including leaders and officials from 60 foreign companies in Europe, the United States, China, Turkey and the Arab countries, as well as 120 Lebanese companies and banks. He also said the programme would create around 900 long-term employment opportunities.