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BEIRUT: The international community must step up its support for Lebanon to overcome the country’s current “very difficult circumstances”, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in Beirut on Monday.
Guterres also said Lebanon needs proper accountability for last year’s port explosion and that elections due next year could usher in political stability in the country.
His comments followed a meeting with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and a visit to the port, where he laid a wreath outside a memorial to the hundreds of people who died when chemicals were stored at the facility for nearly seven years. exploded.
Guterres made a point of recording his observations on the second day of his official visit to Lebanon.
He said that only the Lebanese can solve Lebanese problems, and he renewed his call on political leaders “to come together” to overcome the divisions.
He inspected the blast site for the first time, taking stock of the damage to the port and its surroundings, despite the stormy and rainy weather.
A minute of silence was observed in front of a plaque honoring the victims of the explosion.
In notes distributed by his media office, the secretary-general said he visited the port to pay tribute to the victims who had lost their lives and to express his solidarity with the injured and their families.
âI know the suffering and I know the will of the people to know the truth. The will of the people is to have an appropriate responsibility and I would like to express my very deep solidarity to all the victims of this tragedy. “
His day included a long meeting with representatives of international bodies and organizations, chaired by Guterres and Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Arab News learned that the importance of the meeting stemmed from its conclusion that the efforts of UN agencies “must coordinate on the ground in order to produce more effective work.”
Guterres said Mikati confirmed “the government’s commitment to conduct negotiations with the IMF and its commitment to carry out a number of administrative and financial reforms necessary” to promote economic recovery.
Mikati underlined “Lebanon’s adherence to the role of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon in the south, in compliance with international resolutions”.
He underlined the “commitment of Lebanon to the policy of dissociation from any dispute between Arab countries, as was its decision in 2011” and that Lebanon would “in no case be a factor of unification between the brothers. Arabs, and wishes to have the best relations with all his friends.
He said Lebanon needed urgent aid in many areas, with an emphasis on channeling aid to the poorest and middle class groups, in addition to marginalized segments.
He stressed the need to give special importance to expanding the social protection network, and said the government was “determined” to hold parliamentary elections on time and without delay. “We look forward to the unwavering support of the UN,” he added.
The UN chief participated in an important meeting with religious authorities and listened to the positions of Lebanese sects on developments in Lebanon.
Their speeches reflected political differences in Lebanon.
They affirmed their “attachment to the values ââof openness, tolerance and coexistence, as they are the essence of Lebanon’s identity and stability” in a joint declaration, and encouraged “the adoption of dialogue as means of resolving disputes in a spirit of consensus and teamwork. “
The UN chief also visited the northern city of Tripoli, where he inspected centers and schools that provide services to residents and refugees. He met women leaders and activists.
His talks with Berri focused on the presence of UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon and âthe need to put an end to all ceasefire violationsâ.
Guterres said the speaker drew his attention to “violations of Lebanon’s airspace, as well as the need for full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions.”
âWe discussed the importance of cooperation between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces which the international community must also support much more strongly. In the course of our activities, we will also do our utmost to facilitate the negotiations which we hope will lead to a speedy solution for the delimitation of the maritime boundary.
In a joint press conference, Berri said: âIf there is unrest in one place, the responsibility lies with Israel, which occupies our land, and not with us. Every day there is a violation by Israel of Lebanese airspace, and they even use our airspace to strike Syria.
His remarks came in the context of a UN request in Lebanon to facilitate the mission of UNIFIL forces during their work on the ground.
Hezbollah often obstructs the work of these patrols on the pretext that they are entering private property.