Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador David Hale Following his Meeting with Minister of Information Walid Daouq

September 25, 2013
Good morning.  I am grateful to His Excellency Minister Daouq for the opportunity to meet him today and discuss a wide range of issues of interest to both of us.

Among those issues was freedom of the press here in Lebanon.  And I think we both agree that the work of a free press is crucial to a healthy democracy and society.  And I was very pleased to hear from the Minister his own personal, strong commitment to press freedoms.  America will always stand with a free press, and with those who defend press freedoms.

We also discussed the meeting yesterday between our Presidents, President Obama and President Suleiman.  It was an excellent meeting and gave President Obama an opportunity to express his appreciation for President Suleiman's extraordinary leadership at a very challenging time both here in Lebanon and the region.  We know that the conflict in Syria is affecting every aspect of life in Lebanon, and therefore we commend Lebanon's policy of disassociation from the Syrian conflict.

Unfortunately, Hizballah is deeply involved in a conflict that has displaced millions of people and threatens to destabilize the region.

This is felt strongly here in Lebanon.  For that reason, yesterday President Obama announced additional assistance to Lebanon for both the humanitarian and security challenges that Lebanon faces.

This aid comprises an additional $74 million to help Lebanon cope with the Syrian refugees and help Lebanese host communities.  This aid will enhance the delivery of vital services, provide educational and vocational training, and support health projects.  The total U.S. contribution for Lebanon to date is now over $254 million in support of refugees from the Syrian conflict and Lebanese host communities.

We are also strong partners with the Lebanese state institutions that are responsible for security and accountable to all Lebanese.  President Obama also announced yesterday an additional $8.7 million of support for the Lebanese Armed Forces for internal stability and border security missions.  This brings our total security assistance to over a billion dollars in recent years.

This aid helps the LAF fulfill its mandate as Lebanon's sole legitimate defense force and to implement outstanding Security Resolutions, such as 1701 and 1559.

The Minister and I also discussed today's meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon in New York.  This meeting, chaired by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and attended by key Foreign Ministers and other leaders is a show of solidarity with the Lebanese state and people.

The American and Lebanese people enjoy a longstanding friendship and partnership at many levels.  We want to deepen these ties to benefit both of us, and to continue to help the Lebanese build state institutions that are answerable to all Lebanese.

Thank you very much and thank you Mr. Minister.