Saturday, March 22, 2014

Statement by U.S. Ambassador David Hale following his meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam

March 22, 2014
Good morning.  It's good to be back in Lebanon. 
I just returned from Washington, D.C., where I attended a global conference of American Ambassadors with our senior officials.  It was also a good opportunity for me to consult with Secretary Kerry and other Administration officials on Lebanon. 
As was reported yesterday, President Obama called Prime Minister Salam and commended the leadership of President Sleiman and the Prime Minister, and extended his congratulations upon the government's successful vote of confidence in parliament.  I did so again today.  We stand ready to work with the government and Prime Minister Salam in advancing bilateral American-Lebanese relations, in helping Lebanon protect itself, and in assisting the Lebanese in achieving their aspirations.  That is only possible with a functioning government.
President Obama also spoke to the Prime Minister about this year's elections.  Lebanon's presidential and parliamentary elections are Lebanese processes for the Lebanese to choose Lebanese leaders.  The U.S. role is not to pick and choose, but to join with the international community to help ensure that the Lebanese have the opportunity to do so in accordance with their constitution, on time, and free from foreign interference.  We want to help protect the process, and not enable outsiders to make choices that only the Lebanese have the right to make.  These will be choices that the Lebanese will be making on their own. 
Meanwhile, there are many urgent issues, including those spilling over from the Syrian conflict.  We provide tangible support in this regard, such as more than one billion dollars in recent years to the Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces to aid them in their mission to protect all of Lebanon, including from terrorist attacks originating in Syria.  And we have provided more than $340 million to help Lebanese host communities deal with the stress of refugees from Syria. 
Lebanon's policy of dissociation from the conflict in Syria is the right one.  It is why we support and urge true adherence to the Baada Declaration and the policy of dissociation from the war in Syria.  When people from Lebanon fight in Syria, or on behalf of Syrians, they only bring the war and violence here to Lebanon.  Dissociation works to the benefit of all Lebanese. 
We see the tragic consequences of not adhering to dissociation all across Lebanon, whether in Tripoli or in Arsal.  There are an increasing number of reports of Syrian incursions into Lebanon's territory, and of the Asad regime's actions forcing Syrians to flee into Lebanon.  
The United States condemns the repeated violations of Lebanon's sovereignty by Syrian forces, condemns the fighting in Tripoli, and condemns any actions that risk pulling Lebanon into the fighting that is taking place inside Syria.  Our thoughts are with the residents of Tripoli, just as they are with those in Arsal and the surrounding area.  And we support the recently-deployed members of the LAF and the ISF in Arsal who will work with the residents to ensure security.
The longer the conflict in Syria goes on, the more the spillover into Lebanon will occur.  The Asad regime is the author, not the victim, of violence and extremism.  Support for that regime is only delaying the end of the conflict, and therefore increasing the dangers to Lebanon.
Thank you very much.