Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Terrorist Designations of Hizballah Operatives Meliad Farah, Hassan el-Hajj Hassan, and Hussein Atris

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 28, 2015

The Department of State has designated Meliad Farah, Hassan el-Hajj Hassan, and Hussein Atris as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. The consequences of these designations include a prohibition against U.S. persons engaging in transactions with Farah, Hassan, and Atris; and the freezing of all property and interests of Farah, Hassan, and Atris that are in the United States, or come within the United States or the possession or control of U.S. persons.

On July 18, 2012, a bombing at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria killed six people, including five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian citizen. In July 2013, Meliad Farah and Hassan el-Hajj Hassan were publicly identified as key suspects in the bombing, which has been attributed to Hizballah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Both are believed to be located in Lebanon.

Hussein Atris is a member of Hizballah's overseas terrorism unit. In 2012, Atris was arrested in Thailand in connection with a terror warning about a possible attack in Bangkok. Atris was found to be hiding nearly three tons of ammonium nitrate, a component in the manufacture of explosives. In 2013, a Thai court sentenced Atris to two years and eight months in prison for illegally possessing the materials. He was released in September 2014, and traveled to Sweden and later Lebanon, where he is believed to be located currently.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Statement by National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s Meeting with Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 24, 2015

Today, National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice met with former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to discuss a wide range of regional issues.  Ambassador Rice thanked the former Prime Minister for his efforts to strengthen the close, enduring partnership between the United States and Lebanon and underscored U.S. support for Lebanon and the Lebanese people.  Reaffirming the strong commitment of the United States to Lebanon's security and sovereignty, Ambassador Rice commended the performance of the state institutions, the Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces, and reiterated our further support to enhance their capabilities.  She stressed the need for all Lebanese parties to implement the policy of dissociation, and to support the full implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions on Lebanon.

Ambassador Rice and former Prime Minister Hariri agreed on the importance of reaching a genuine political solution in Syria and increasing international  attention and assistance to help Lebanon shoulder the challenge of hosting nearly 1.2 million Syrian refugees.  Ambassador Rice emphasized the importance to Lebanon and the Lebanese people that Lebanon's parliament move forward to elect a president of the Lebanese Republic in accordance with the constitution.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Readout of Vice President Biden’s Meeting with Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri

The White House
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release
April 24, 2015

The Vice President met this morning with former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The Vice President reaffirmed the United States' support for Lebanon's sovereignty and independence, as well as the wide-ranging partnership between the United States and the government and people of Lebanon. The Vice President praised the courage of the Lebanese Armed Forces in confronting extremists inside Lebanon and expressed support for Lebanon's policy of dissociation from the conflict in Syria. The Vice President and former Prime Minister discussed regional and international developments, including ongoing nuclear diplomacy with Iran. The Vice President underscored that no nation in the Middle East should enjoy a sphere of influence at the expense of its neighbors' sovereignty. 

The Vice President and the former Prime Minister also discussed Lebanon's political situation. They agreed on the need for Lebanese leaders to reach agreement, for the good of their country, to fill the current Presidential vacancy. The Vice President recognized the immense humanitarian challenge confronting Lebanon and all of Syria's neighbors, and the former Prime Minister expressed his gratitude for U.S. humanitarian support for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Remarks With Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 22, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody. It's my pleasure to welcome to Washington and to the State Department the former prime minister of Lebanon and a good friend personally. Each time that I have gone to Beirut, almost every time, I've had occasion to be able to visit with Saad Hariri. And he has worked for moderation and for thoughtful political compromise to try to move this country forward. He's worked through very difficult challenges, obviously.
And we're particularly, here in the United States, committed to Lebanon's stability and security. We're anxious to see the presidency ultimately filled and to try to see the effects of Daesh and Nusrah and Syria moved away from Lebanon so that Lebanon can really have its sovereignty respected and its future protected and guaranteed.
So we have a lot to talk about, because right now, there are some 1.2 million refugees who have spilled over from Syria into Lebanon that destabilizes the country. We are very opposed to entities like Hizballah and others using locations and places in Lebanon and nearby as pawns in this struggle. And we call on Iran and the Assad regime and others to respect the integrity of Lebanon, and permit it and its people to be able to find the peace and the stability that they have longed for so long.
So we have a lot to talk about, and I'm very, very happy to welcome the former prime minister here. I know he remains very active and is very important to the politics of his country. And we will continue to support the Lebanese Armed Forces and the forces of moderation and those who want to work together peacefully to provide the future that the people of Lebanon deserve.
MR. HARIRI: Thank you. I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for having me here. Yes, we do have a lot to talk about. Lebanon is living a very difficult time. The region also is in a very, very dangerous time also, I would say. The involvement of certain factions like Hizballah in Iran also – and in Lebanon or in Syria or in Iraq or in Yemen has grown to a point that is extremely dangerous. We believe that Iran has a good – a country that we all need to deal with, and we believe that interfering into Lebanon is not something that we would like as Lebanese people.
I would like to thank you for the support of the Lebanese army. This is something that we try to always help, because this is the basic of our security. We're facing Daesh; we're facing Nusrah; we're facing al-Qaida on our borders. We have 1.2 million refugees, like you said, and we need to elect a president. So hopefully, we'll have some good talks. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Look forward to it. Thank you. Welcome. Thank you very much, folks. Thank you.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken Visits Lebanon

April 6, 2015 - Today Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken concluded a two-day visit to Lebanon where he met with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Lebanese Armed Forces Commander Jean Qahwagi, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, and UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag. He also visited the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center in Bourj Hammoud, which serves both Lebanese community members and refugees. Deputy Secretary Blinken toured the facility and observed a legal rights awareness session aimed at preventing the abuse and exploitation of vulnerable refugees. In addition, he visited the offices of AMIDEAST Lebanon and met with Lebanese students studying English through the Access Microscholarship Program.

Below are Deputy Secretary Blinken's remarks following his meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam.


Good afternoon. I want to thank Prime Minister Salam for his hospitality, as well as extend my best wishes to the people of Lebanon.

The United States has a deep and enduring commitment to Lebanon and to its people.

The strength of our relationship is anchored in the values we share—our belief in education, individualism, human dignity, and liberty: in the freedom of faith, the freedom of expression, and the vibrancy of a free market.

And it is anchored in the importance of Lebanon, its security, and its prosperity to this entire region.

The Prime Minister and I reviewed developments in the region, including the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran on the elements of a comprehensive plan to deal with Iran's nuclear program that were decided last week in Lausanne, as well as the conflicts in Syria and Yemen and the future of Middle East peace.

We know that all of these issues have an impact here in Lebanon and that the interests of your nation are at stake.

We also talked about our common efforts to counter extremist violence and eliminate the threat that Daesh and other groups pose to all of us. This effort requires not only a military response, but also global engagement to counter extremist propaganda and financing, and the flow of foreign fighters.  It requires reaching those who might be susceptible to the call of violent extremism and to develop strategies to prevent them from joining in the first place.  Lebanon is a strong partner in all of these efforts. That is why we have increased and expedited our assistance to Lebanon.

In any society, stable and effective government institutions serve as the foundation for a peaceful, secure, and prosperous nation that advances the aspirations of its citizens.

We want to help strengthen Lebanese state institutions that are accountable to the Lebanese people - and capable of protecting them and securing the country's borders, in accordance with UN Security Resolution 1701 and the Baabda Declaration.

We continue to support the security services as they protect and preserve Lebanon's security, stability, independence, and sovereignty on behalf of allLebanese.

Our security assistance—training, equipment, weapons, and ammunition—totals more than $1 billion over the last nine years. It bolsters the Lebanese government's capabilities to protect Lebanon's people, defeat violent extremists, and secure Lebanon's borders. When last fall's events in Arsal presented a new challenge to your security forces, the United States answered the call with practical assistance—and we will continue to do so.

The United States is committed to helping bring about a political transition in Syria that leads to an inclusive government and a future of freedom, dignity, and security for the Syrian people. Dignity cannot be brought if the current dictator—a man who has gassed and barrel bombed the people of Syria—remains. As Secretary Kerry has emphasized, a brutal dictator like Assad has no place in Syria's future.

In this regard, Hizballah's support for Assad - indeed the lifeline it provides - serves only to prolong the conflict and suffering, provides Daesh with a recruitment tool, and causes more refugees to flee to Lebanon. Hizballah's actions in Syria are bad for the people of Syria and Lebanon.

The consequences of the war in Syria affect every aspect of life here in Lebanon and deeply strain public services. Host communities share precious water resources; hospitals have exhausted their supplies providing care; and schools opened their doors to many more students, some of whom carry scars that cannot be seen.

The U.S. Government supports—and is grateful for—the work of the Lebanese government and society to take in so many refugees from Syria. This is a profoundly generous and compassionate response.

And we are committed to providing support not only to the refugees, but also the Lebanese communities that host them. The United States remains the single largest individual donor in the Syrian response—having provided nearly $800 million in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon. This includes our announcement just last week in Kuwait that we will give another $118 million to assist refugees and host communities in Lebanon.

This assistance is renovating schools, easing the financial burden of providing food and other basic necessities, and improving access to clean water and medical care in Lebanese towns and villages—to the benefit of those communities.

We are particularly impressed by the way Lebanon's municipalities have managed our assistance, and we will continue to expand our support for them, just as we will continue to stand with Lebanon through this unprecedented crisis.

To tackle the many challenges confronting the region today, Lebanon needs every part of its government functioning effectively.

It cannot face these historic challenges with an empty chair. Electing a president will not solve all of these problems, but it will be a critical step in the right direction.  Until the seat is filled, Lebanon cannot make important policy decisions that would improve the lives of its people.

I urge Lebanon's leaders not to look outside of their country for a resolution to the presidential gridlock, but instead to find a solution from within. Responsible voices in the international community will support you. But unless and until a president is chosen, the erosion of Lebanon's political institutions will only deepen.

We once again call on Lebanon's parliament to elect a president as soon as possible, in accordance with the Constitution and the National Pact. The election of a president is a decision entirely for the Lebanese to take, but they must take it; and those blocking formation of a parliamentary quorum should be held to public account.

Again, I thank Prime Minister Salam, as well as the other Lebanese leaders I had the privilege of meeting with on this visit. I have appreciated the opportunity to engage in meaningful exchanges, as we deepen and strengthen a relationship that reflects the enduring U.S. commitment to Lebanon and its people.

Thank you very much