Friday, August 18, 2017

U.S. Government Supports New Digital Platform for Lebanon to Engage the Diaspora

By U.S. Embassy Beirut | 10 August, 2017 | Topics: Press Releases
U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard joined Prime Minister Hariri and Ms. Roula Moussa today to launch the Diaspora Investment and Development platform, developed with the support of a $1,050,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).   Held at the Grand Serail, the launch event took place in the presence of the Prime Minister, Ministers, mayors and other municipality officials, Lebanese diaspora and private sector representatives. This innovative platform connects the Lebanese Diaspora with their ancestral home towns to foster collaborative action to support the continued development of Lebanon.

In her remarks, the Ambassador stressed the impressive contributions of the Lebanese diaspora community to both the United States and Lebanon, and expressed continuing U.S. support for Lebanon's economic development, security and stability.

DiasporaID provides the opportunity for diaspora around the globe to mobilize their expertise and resources and digitally engage in development projects in Lebanese communities and villages. These could include investment opportunities, fundraising efforts for local projects, on-line mentoring for young people, and marketing and purchasing the goods of local Lebanese businesses. This grant is part of a larger U.S. Government commitment to support economic development and job creation in Lebanon, including over $45 million invested over the last three years.

Following are Ambassador Richard's remarks at the ceremony:

Good morning everyone, Your Excellency Prime Minister Hariri, Esteemed Ministers, Members of Parliament, and our friends at Netways, ladies and gentlemen.   I am so happy to be here with all of you to officially launch the Diaspora Investment and Development platform – DiasporaID.  I would especially like to especially thank Prime Minister Hariri for graciously hosting this event to promote the important role that the diaspora can play in Lebanon's economic prosperity.  I think it is very meaningful that we are doing this here, in the seat of government today.  With his support, we are confident that the platform we will launch today will build stronger ties between the U.S. and Lebanon by energizing this diaspora to support Lebanon's development.

About 40 million Americans are first or second-generation immigrants, and this includes several very impressive millions of Lebanese descent, they are among our most successful immigrants.

They have become national leaders, including four currently sitting members of our Congress.  Some of our leading scientists in the globe are from Lebanon, including Elias James Corey, who was the 1990 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, regarded by many as one of the greatest living chemists.   Some are successful businessmen and women, including Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinkos, and Debra Cafaro, the CEO of the investment firm Ventas, and one of only two women named by Harvard Business Review in its list of the "Top 50 Best Performing CEOs in the World" and that is three years in a row. Very impressive.

Lebanese Americans are also doctors, influential writers, entertainers, and innovators.

Yet these great Americans maintain a profound connection to Lebanon because of family, friends, and a deep sense of cultural heritage.    They have diverse experiences, they have connections, and they have exceptional human and capital resources at their disposal.  And so many of them are looking for a way to contribute directly to Lebanon's development and prosperity… even from abroad.

We in the U.S. government believe in Lebanon and we have invested over $45 million in just the past 3 years in economic development, start-up capital for new businesses, and training and mentoring for young entrepreneurs. You know there are many many success stories, and I wish I had time to tell them all, but I want to highlight one.  A young Lebanese gentleman, who was a beneficiary of a USAID grant for about $200,000 to start a biotechnology company, and do you know his company is working on a minimally invasive device that many expect is going to revolutionize heart surgery.  These are very impressive outcomes of our investments as a US government in Lebanon.  And we are very proud of these investments, but it's equally important to help our friends in the diaspora also give back to the country.

And that's why we are so pleased to help launch this very innovative social network called DiasporaID.  Through a grant of over $1 million, we'll help create a platform that will help Lebanese Americans – and Lebanese around the globe – quite frankly, strengthen their connection to their communities of origin.  We'll help them turn their general sense of wanting to help their own country into concrete opportunities to create jobs, to raise funds for local projects, to provide on-line mentoring for young people, or to market and purchase the products of Lebanese small businesses. With DiasporaID, they will be able to easily access this platform from anywhere in the world to make a positive change back home.

We are very proud to support this innovative Lebanese private sector initiative, led by Netways, and I couldn't be more happy to be here with Roula Moussa who is actually one of the most inspirational examples of someone who has not only succeeded, quite extensively on her own, but who has come back to Lebanon to help others succeed.  And I think that's really the spirit of giving back to the country that we are so proud of being associated with. So thank you Roula.    And I want to thank everyone for being with us to launch this today.  I think it is one of the most exceptional initiatives that I've seen in quite some time and I'm sure will be very successful.

Thank you all.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

US Delivers Bradley Fighting Vehicles to the Lebanese Army

By U.S. Embassy Beirut | 14 August, 2017

Ambassador Elizabeth Richard spoke today at the delivery of Bradley Fighting Vehicles and armored field artillery ammunition supply vehicles to the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Following are Ambassador Richard's remarks as delivered:
Good Morning everyone.  Good Morning Brigadier General Farah and your team, it is my pleasure to be with you today.
We are here at the Port of Beirut to mark the delivery of eight M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. These are the very first of a total shipment of 32 Bradleys that will be delivered in the coming months.  This contribution to the Lebanese Armed Forces represents an investment of over 100 million dollars. It will provide the Lebanese Armed Forces with new capabilities to protect Lebanon, to protect its borders, and to fight terrorists.
Over the next several months, the Army will undergo intensive training on how to operate and maintain this new, very sophisticated combat system.
Over the last few years, as you know, the United States has intensified its engagement and support to the Lebanese Army.  I would just like you to review how in the past 12 months alone; the United States has provided the following defense articles to the Lebanese Army:
40 M198 howitzers
50 armored Humvees
an Armed Cessna aircraft with hellfire missiles
55 mortar systems
50 Mark-19 automatic grenade launchers
1100 machine guns, including 800  50 caliber machine guns
4,000 M4 rifles
Over half a million rounds of ammunition
320 night vision devices and thermal sights
360 secure communication radios
America's support for Lebanon is based on the shared interests of the American people and the Lebanese people.  Our support is based on the principle that we share the same goals for stability and security in this country, and we share the view that the Lebanese Armed Forces need to maintain their rightful place as the sole provider of security and stability to the Lebanese people.
Today, on behalf of the American people, I am pleased to once again demonstrate our long-term commitment to Lebanon, and our support long term to the Army – and only the army – as it fights terrorism and defends the borders of this country.
Thank you very much for being with us today.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Press Release: Ambassador Haley on the UN Secretary-General’s Recommendation to Renew the Mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon

New York City
August 7, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On Friday, August 4, UN Secretary-General António Guterres submitted a letter to the Security Council recommending that the Council renew the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is due to expire on August 31. In the letter, the Secretary-General called for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon to strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the authority of Lebanon's government. He also noted the illegal presence of armed personnel, weapons, and infrastructure inside UNIFIL's area of operations, and his intention to look at ways in which UNIFIL could enhance its efforts against them.
"We share the Secretary-General's strong desire to enhance UNIFIL's efforts to prevent the spread of illegal arms in southern Lebanon," said Ambassador Haley. "These arms – which are almost entirely in the hands of Hizballah terrorists – threaten the security and stability of the region. UNIFIL must increase its capacity and commitment to investigating and reporting these violations. The United States will continue to raise the threat posed by Hizballah as we seek significant improvements to UNIFIL when the Security Council renews its mandate this month."

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Monday, August 07, 2017

US urges UN force in Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah weapons

By Edith M. Lederer | AP August 7 at 5:47 PM
UNITED NATIONS — U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley urged the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon on Monday to step up efforts to prevent the spread of illegal arms in the south, which she said "are almost entirely in the hands of Hezbollah terrorists."

Haley made clear in a statement that the United States is seeking "significant improvements" to the U.N. force, known as UNIFIL, when the U.N. Security Council renews a mandate that is due to expire Aug. 31.

Her statement was in response to a letter to the Security Council from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying he intends to look at ways in which UNIFIL could "enhance its efforts."

But the U.N. chief stressed that the Lebanese armed forces have primary responsibility for ensuring that "there are no unauthorized armed personnel, assets or weapons" in the southern area between the Litani River and the U.N.-drawn Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel where UNIFIL operates.

"On its part, UNIFIL, in coordination with the Lebanese armed forces, remains determined to act with all means available within its mandate and capabilities on concrete information provided regarding the illegal presence of armed personnel, weapons or infrastructure inside its area of operations," Guterres said.

Israel has long complained that Hezbollah militants operate freely in the south.

Haley said the United States, a strong ally of Israel, "will continue to raise the threat posed by Hezbollah as we seek significant improvements to UNIFIL when the Security Council renews its mandate this month."

The secretary-general said that despite the "long period of relative calm and stability in southern Lebanon and along the Blue Line," neither Israel nor Lebanon have fulfilled their obligations under the Security Council resolution that ended the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006.

"Israel must withdraw its forces from Lebanese territory and stop violations of Lebanese airspace," Guterres said.

"The government of Lebanon must exercise effective authority over all Lebanese territory, prevent hostile actions from its territory, ensure the safety and security of the civilian population, in addition to United Nations personnel, and also ensure the disarmament of all armed groups," he said.

Ensuring that there are no weapons or "authority" in the south except the Lebanese government and army is vital "in moving from the fragile cessation of hostilities to a permanent cease-fire," Guterres said.

He urged all parties to use the current relative calm to take "positive steps" toward a permanent cease-fire and long-term solution to the conflict.

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