ROME CONFERENCE: ALFANO, HARIRI, GUTERRES AND GENTILONI HIGHLIGHT IMPORTANCE OF LEBANON’S STABILITY FOR THE REGION

The Rome 2 conference, entitled Lebanon, building trust: a viable security for the country and the region, organized by the International Support Group for Lebanon, opened this afternoon at the headquarters of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Farnesina) in the presence of the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri and the accompanying delegation that includes Ministers of Defense Yacoub al-Sarraf, Interior Nohad Machnouk and Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil, Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, Director-General of the Internal Security Forces Maj. Gen. Imad Othman, Director General of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, and representatives of 41 participating countries in addition to Nato.

The opening speech was made by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Angelino Alfano who said:

President Gentiloni, Prime Minister Hariri, Secretary General of the UN Guterres, Secretary General of the Arab League Aboul Gheit, High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission Mogherini, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I have the honor of welcoming you to the Foreign Ministry for the Second Ministerial Meeting in Support of the Lebanese Security Forces.

Today’s meeting is in line with the commitment made together in June 2014 when the then Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini and the Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti presided – in this same room – the First Ministerial Meeting in Support of the Lebanese security forces.

The link between Europe and Lebanon is evident and indissoluble. History and geography tell us this. And mythology reminds us too: the Greek goddess “Europa” was a Lebanese, daughter of Agenore, king of Tyre. To Europe, the Lebanese goddess and queen, we owe the name of our continent, which today is called to become aware of its origins and its Mediterranean destiny, supporting Lebanon in the name of that pluralism that is the founding element of European civilization.

In this last regard, I recall an anecdote: during the Lebanese civil war, the Italian Institute of Culture in Beirut continued to operate in the city with two sections: one in the eastern part; and the other in the western part. His differentiated presence helped to keep the culture of dialogue alive in a divided Beirut.

The mission of the Italian UNIFIL troops was inspired by the same values: in favor of peace and security, but always respecting the cultures and the different sensibilities of the local populations.

Indeed, as Pope John Paul II once said, “Lebanon is”far more than a country: it is a mission and a message of pluralism” of different faiths, cultures and identities that coexist side by side. A mission and a message that Italian foreign policy promotes and defends not only in Lebanon but throughout the Mediterranean.

Our goal is to counter the logic of polarized factions, divisive ideologies and to enhance – instead – the virtues of dialogue and mediation. It is with this spirit that we want today to reaffirm the strongest possible support to the institutions of Lebanon, starting from its security forces. And not only for an effective control of the territory and the borders, but also and above all to reinvigorate in Lebanese citizens a sense of security and trust in the institutions.

Strengthening institutional security forces also means working to make Lebanon immune to the aggressive influence of non-state actors and the impact of regional crises. To this end, it is necessary to ensure broad support for the Lebanese Government, so that the security forces consolidate their authority throughout the national territory.

Today’s meeting – to be successful – therefore needs the commitment of the whole international community and above all: of the Lebanese Government; of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG); and the United Nations, for which I thank Secretary General Guterres for agreeing to co-chair this Meeting.

I thank you all for being here and now I have the honor of giving the floor to the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Hariri

Prime Minister Hariri said:

Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Antonio Guterres

Prime Minister Gentiloni

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for my delegation and myself to be welcomed in Rome for this conference. Thank you Prime Minister Gentiloni for hosting us and for your commitment to making this conference happen.

Thank you Mr Secretary General for always having the United Nations stand by our side.

Thank you, the representatives of 41 nations gathered here today. Your presence is a clear indication of the importance you give to Lebanon’s security and stability. It is also an acknowledgement of the role Lebanon plays in stability across our region.

It is a testimony to the need to build our State security institutions, the sole defenders of Lebanon’s sovereignty.

The Lebanese government recognizes that it is enjoying an exceptional moment of international consensus and support. We consider that it is in our national interest to preserve this international consensus and as such, we are committed to doing our part.

The President of the Lebanese Republic, Michel Aoun, announced three days ago, that the National Defense Strategy will be discussed following the legislative elections in May. I join President Aoun’s call to the International community to support the Lebanese Armed Forces, to enable them to assume their duty of preserving security and stability in accordance with the National Defense Strategy.

We have committed to investing in our Army and Security Forces in our new budget. Together, with your support and commitment, we can build a strong partnership in safeguarding Lebanon’s state institutions.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My government’s priority is to create a virtuous cycle of security, stability, growth and employment for Lebanon and the Lebanese. Rome II is a first step towards achieving this and will be followed by the CEDRE and Brussels conferences. Indeed, stability and security are underlying conditions for economic growth and prosperity.

On December 5, the Lebanese Government with all its components committed to the policy of disassociation. This is today a collective responsibility. It is closely monitored by all State institutions to ensure it is executed to Lebanon’s national interest in keeping the best relations with Arab countries and the International Community at large.

I ask you all to give Lebanon the chance and the time to accomplish.

I take this opportunity to thank our Arab friends present here today in support of our security institutions. The Lebanese will never forget everything you have done and we are happy you are here today to renew your commitment to Lebanon’s stability.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My Government remains committed to ensuring that the LAF and the ISF continue to work together on the strategic level and to embarking on a major, long-awaited reform agenda in the security sector. It also remains committed to Security Council Resolution 1701 and 2372 which in itself urges international support for our Armed Forces.

We will be sending more LAF troops to the south and we stress our intention to deploy a Model Regiment.

We thank UNIFIL and all the Troop Contributing Countries for sending their men and women to maintain peace and security on our Southern Border, the calmest border in the Middle East.

However, Israel remains the primary threat to Lebanon. Its daily violations to our sovereignty must stop.

While we are thinking of ways to move from a state of cessation of hostilities to a state of permanent cease-fire, Israel continues to make plans to build walls on reservation areas along the Blue Line.

Excellencies,

We are here to build trust because we have acknowledged that a viable security for Lebanon is a viable security for the region. All efforts must be channeled to maintain peace and calm on our borders.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I cannot stress enough the great value I attach to recruiting more female officers and to ensuring increased representation of women at all decision making levels in institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) which was a landmark resolution on women, peace and security.

Strengthening Lebanon’s security institutions will strengthen rule of law. And strengthening rule of law will promote Human Rights. As such, I want to express today my Government’s Commitment to take steps to activate our National Human Rights Commission in the coming months.

We are also currently working on establishing a specialized Human Security Unit under the Presidency of the Council of Ministers which will focus on raising national awareness on the risk of possession and use of firearms by the civilians. As a future step, we plan to create a National Committee for firearms in Lebanon. This development confirms our engagement in the different contexts of the UN Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects.

My government’s policy is to consolidate strategies for all our security agencies, including the General security, state security and customs, in direct alignment with Sustainable Development Goal 16 and aims at promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

The duties of General Security have increased exponentially.

It had to cope with the massive influx of over 1,2 million displaced Syrians, while bearing the burden of addressing the major security challenges accompanying the crisis, in cooperation with the LAF and ISF.

Excellencies,

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the courage, bravery and commitment of the men and women of the Lebanese Military and Security Forces. Those who serve, those who have given their lives, and those who continue to risk theirs to confront the global threat of terrorism, in all its kinds. They sacrifice to fight and win this common struggle against extremism, intolerance and injustice, in order to safeguard our sovereignty, our diversity, our prosperity, and our way of life.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Stability is not granted. We have to work for it every day. The time for mobilization and for coordination is NOW. Together, we are facing a global threat that commands a global reaction. Lebanon is ready.

Guterres

Guterres said:

Thank you for coming together in support of the people and institutions of Lebanon. Allow me to begin by recalling my close ties with Lebanon and the circumstances surrounding the development of this International Support Group.

The importance of such a partnership emerged during my years as High Commissioner for Refugees. As the dramatic impacts of the Syrian conflict spread well beyond its borders, I saw first-hand the outstanding hospitality the Lebanese people extended to Syrians fleeing violence and destruction. Lebanon has faced an enormous influx of refugees, bringing the total in the country to almost one third of the country’s population. As one can imagine, this has an enormous impact on the country’s economy and society, not to mention the dramatic security challenges owing to the Syrian crisis next door.

Yet Lebanon has displayed admirable solidarity — in contrast to others whose doors have tend to be closed to those in need. It is now essential for the international community to show the same solidarity, a strong solidarity with Lebanon.

Lebanon is a fundamental pillar of stability for the region. This status is the product of tremendous hard work on the part of leaders and citizens alike. The country has known many tribulations over the years.

Yet the Lebanese people have showed great fortitude even when it emerged from a devastating civil war.

And they have demonstrated deep-seated commitment to preserving the country’s diversity and pursuing democracy and human rights. At a time of upheaval across the region, Lebanon cannot afford to be drawn into conflict with its neighbours.

Preserving the stability and unity of Lebanon is essential for Lebanon, the region and the world. We are here together today to act on that understanding. For almost five years, this Support Group has played a vital role.

Prime Minister Gentiloni, I want to acknowledge your leadership in supporting the armed forces and internal security forces of Lebanon.

Italy is a long-standing contributor to UNIFIL and a friend of the Lebanese people.

I would also like to acknowledge the collective efforts by the leadership of Lebanon, represented here by Prime Minister Hariri, to ensure the continued functioning of Lebanon’s state institutions.

I am informed that preparations for parliamentary elections on May 6th are on track. This is a testament to Lebanon’s resilience and commitment to democracy. To maintain that stability, and to ensure further progress, Lebanon must take tangible steps forward and the international community must continue to be unified in support.

The strengthening of Lebanon’s institutions and the extension of state authority throughout its territory are of crucial importance.

Lebanon’s security institutions have made important gains.

In clearing militants from border areas, they have improved security on the eastern border, regained control of territory and consolidated their deployment.

These achievements would not have been possible without the generous support of the United States, the United Kingdom and a growing number of partners.

Last December in Paris, this Support Group underscored that the Lebanese Armed Forces are the only legitimate armed force in Lebanon.

The Group called on all Lebanese parties to resume discussions towards a consensus on a National Defence Strategy that I see is moving forward, and to take tangible steps towards disassociation from and non-interference in external conflicts. And it called on the international community to step up its support to state security institutions. I am pleased to note the positive steps taken since then, including the respective statements of President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri asserting the primacy of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and calling for adherence to the policy of disassociation.

I welcome the strengthened deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces south of the Litani River. I also welcome plans to accelerate further deployment through the establishment of a model regiment in UNIFIL’s area of operations to advance the implementation of resolution 1701, in line with Security Council Resolution 2373 and in the context of the strategic dialogue between the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL.

These, together with the consolidated deployment along the eastern border, have been important advances. Such extension of state authority, through the gradual assumption by the Lebanese Armed Forces of effective and sustainable control of the UNIFIL area of operations and Lebanese territorial waters, is a key element towards achieving the fundamental objectives of Security Council resolution 1701. To this end, well-equipped, well-trained and well-resourced Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces are a prerequisite.

I therefore welcome the updated capabilities development plan presented by the Lebanese Armed Forces, and the first Strategic Plan for the Internal Security Forces. They provide a vision and show that Lebanon is headed in the right direction. I also commend the commitment of the Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces to increase the participation of women at all decision-making levels, in line with Security Council resolution 1325.

I encourage the Government and its security institutions to continue to develop and implement codes of conduct as important measures towards increased respect for human rights and accountability.

Concrete steps towards the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission just announced will be crucial in consolidating the confidence of international partners. This conference is part of a broader agenda, as Prime Minister Hariri just mentioned with meetings in Paris and Brussels to follow, which includes a meeting next month in Paris on economic investment and reform.

Much depends on the ability of Lebanese authorities to seize this moment and to uphold their responsibilities.

Stability requires a transparent, accountable and democratic state, rooted in the rule of law and strong and functional institutions.

International and regional partners must also do their part.

Countries in the region should work to avoid any steps that could lead to misunderstandings, confrontation or escalation.

It will be equally important to keep the international consensus in support of Lebanon together, and to provide the necessary resources.

Let us all remain strongly and visibly committed to stability in Lebanon � for the sake of the Lebanese people and for the wider peace that is so essential at this time.

Gentiloni

For his part, Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni stressed that relations between Lebanon and Italy are historic and growing strongly, and that this conference is designed to emphasize and enhance the contribution of Italy and the international community.

He said: We welcome Prime Minister Hariri and the accompanying delegation, and applaud in particular the partnership of Secretary General Guterres and salute his presence representing the United Nations, which shows the commitment of the world and the international community to Lebanon’s security and stability.

He added: This conference held in Rome is to confirm the strong support of the international community to Lebanon, the important state in the Middle East and the Mediterranean that encountered difficulties but is characterized by great religious diversity and has a great importance in the security of Europe and Asia. This region faced several crises that threatened its stability from violence, extremism, conflicts and economic difficulties.

Lebanon in turn faced crises that tried to destabilize it, but social, sectarian and economic diversity was a special advantage, in addition to its geographic location. Thus, Lebanon’s stability is fundamental to the consolidation of stability throughout the Mediterranean region. It is important to send a key message that the international community, through the Rome conference, stands by Lebanon. The Paris conference that will be held in April on economic issues is also an important conference, as is the Brussels conference on responding to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the issue of displaced people.

Therefore, the important solidarity with the Lebanese people, who in turn showed exceptional solidarity with the Syrian crisis and the displaced Syrians, is also an international so that it can fulfill its obligations and continue its work.

He continued: This conference has a strong message. It is a great symbol of standing by Lebanon, and an opportunity to reiterate the solidarity of the international community with Lebanon in its security and prosperity. Security is a necessary and fundamental condition for stability. Also, the territorial integrity of Lebanon must be respected so that the country can maintain its political and economic stability.

Everyone agrees on the need to support the Lebanese economic institutions and the legitimacy of the state and the government. In this context, our support to the armed forces, the internal security forces and the Lebanese institutions is fundamental for Lebanon’s security and peace, especially in fighting Daesh and protecting the country against the terrorist attacks and its cultural and religious diversity. Lebanon fought this war with the support of all political forces. The policy of disassociation and non-interference in the region’s conflicts is a political consensus that was reaffirmed today in the speech of Prime Minister Hariri and through President Aoun’s statement which consolidates dialogue with all Lebanese factions and defines a Lebanese defense strategy.

He concluded: Supporting Lebanon to enhance its constitutional institutions and realize achievements is a fundamental issue. This is an international responsibility and we must contribute collectively to protect Lebanon’s stability and strengthen its military forces so it is able to defend itself, within a strategy that allows it to enjoy permanent stability. Italy invested in supporting Lebanon and its military forces through Italy’s contribution in the UNIFIL and we will continue to do so.

Source: National News Agency

ROME CONFERENCE: ALFANO, HARIRI, GUTERRES AND GENTILONI HIGHLIGHT IMPORTANCE OF LEBANON’S STABILITY FOR THE REGION

The Rome 2 conference, entitled Lebanon, building trust: a viable security for the country and the region, organized by the International Support Group for Lebanon, opened this afternoon at the headquarters of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Farnesina) in the presence of the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri and the accompanying delegation that includes Ministers of Defense Yacoub al-Sarraf, Interior Nohad Machnouk and Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil, Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, Director-General of the Internal Security Forces Maj. Gen. Imad Othman, Director General of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, and representatives of 41 participating countries in addition to Nato.

The opening speech was made by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Angelino Alfano who said:

President Gentiloni, Prime Minister Hariri, Secretary General of the UN Guterres, Secretary General of the Arab League Aboul Gheit, High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission Mogherini, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I have the honor of welcoming you to the Foreign Ministry for the Second Ministerial Meeting in Support of the Lebanese Security Forces.

Today’s meeting is in line with the commitment made together in June 2014 when the then Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini and the Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti presided – in this same room – the First Ministerial Meeting in Support of the Lebanese security forces.

The link between Europe and Lebanon is evident and indissoluble. History and geography tell us this. And mythology reminds us too: the Greek goddess “Europa” was a Lebanese, daughter of Agenore, king of Tyre. To Europe, the Lebanese goddess and queen, we owe the name of our continent, which today is called to become aware of its origins and its Mediterranean destiny, supporting Lebanon in the name of that pluralism that is the founding element of European civilization.

In this last regard, I recall an anecdote: during the Lebanese civil war, the Italian Institute of Culture in Beirut continued to operate in the city with two sections: one in the eastern part; and the other in the western part. His differentiated presence helped to keep the culture of dialogue alive in a divided Beirut.

The mission of the Italian UNIFIL troops was inspired by the same values: in favor of peace and security, but always respecting the cultures and the different sensibilities of the local populations.

Indeed, as Pope John Paul II once said, “Lebanon is”far more than a country: it is a mission and a message of pluralism” of different faiths, cultures and identities that coexist side by side. A mission and a message that Italian foreign policy promotes and defends not only in Lebanon but throughout the Mediterranean.

Our goal is to counter the logic of polarized factions, divisive ideologies and to enhance – instead – the virtues of dialogue and mediation. It is with this spirit that we want today to reaffirm the strongest possible support to the institutions of Lebanon, starting from its security forces. And not only for an effective control of the territory and the borders, but also and above all to reinvigorate in Lebanese citizens a sense of security and trust in the institutions.

Strengthening institutional security forces also means working to make Lebanon immune to the aggressive influence of non-state actors and the impact of regional crises. To this end, it is necessary to ensure broad support for the Lebanese Government, so that the security forces consolidate their authority throughout the national territory.

Today’s meeting – to be successful – therefore needs the commitment of the whole international community and above all: of the Lebanese Government; of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG); and the United Nations, for which I thank Secretary General Guterres for agreeing to co-chair this Meeting.

I thank you all for being here and now I have the honor of giving the floor to the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Hariri

Prime Minister Hariri said:

Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Antonio Guterres

Prime Minister Gentiloni

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for my delegation and myself to be welcomed in Rome for this conference. Thank you Prime Minister Gentiloni for hosting us and for your commitment to making this conference happen.

Thank you Mr Secretary General for always having the United Nations stand by our side.

Thank you, the representatives of 41 nations gathered here today. Your presence is a clear indication of the importance you give to Lebanon’s security and stability. It is also an acknowledgement of the role Lebanon plays in stability across our region.

It is a testimony to the need to build our State security institutions, the sole defenders of Lebanon’s sovereignty.

The Lebanese government recognizes that it is enjoying an exceptional moment of international consensus and support. We consider that it is in our national interest to preserve this international consensus and as such, we are committed to doing our part.

The President of the Lebanese Republic, Michel Aoun, announced three days ago, that the National Defense Strategy will be discussed following the legislative elections in May. I join President Aoun’s call to the International community to support the Lebanese Armed Forces, to enable them to assume their duty of preserving security and stability in accordance with the National Defense Strategy.

We have committed to investing in our Army and Security Forces in our new budget. Together, with your support and commitment, we can build a strong partnership in safeguarding Lebanon’s state institutions.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My government’s priority is to create a virtuous cycle of security, stability, growth and employment for Lebanon and the Lebanese. Rome II is a first step towards achieving this and will be followed by the CEDRE and Brussels conferences. Indeed, stability and security are underlying conditions for economic growth and prosperity.

On December 5, the Lebanese Government with all its components committed to the policy of disassociation. This is today a collective responsibility. It is closely monitored by all State institutions to ensure it is executed to Lebanon’s national interest in keeping the best relations with Arab countries and the International Community at large.

I ask you all to give Lebanon the chance and the time to accomplish.

I take this opportunity to thank our Arab friends present here today in support of our security institutions. The Lebanese will never forget everything you have done and we are happy you are here today to renew your commitment to Lebanon’s stability.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My Government remains committed to ensuring that the LAF and the ISF continue to work together on the strategic level and to embarking on a major, long-awaited reform agenda in the security sector. It also remains committed to Security Council Resolution 1701 and 2372 which in itself urges international support for our Armed Forces.

We will be sending more LAF troops to the south and we stress our intention to deploy a Model Regiment.

We thank UNIFIL and all the Troop Contributing Countries for sending their men and women to maintain peace and security on our Southern Border, the calmest border in the Middle East.

However, Israel remains the primary threat to Lebanon. Its daily violations to our sovereignty must stop.

While we are thinking of ways to move from a state of cessation of hostilities to a state of permanent cease-fire, Israel continues to make plans to build walls on reservation areas along the Blue Line.

Excellencies,

We are here to build trust because we have acknowledged that a viable security for Lebanon is a viable security for the region. All efforts must be channeled to maintain peace and calm on our borders.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I cannot stress enough the great value I attach to recruiting more female officers and to ensuring increased representation of women at all decision making levels in institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) which was a landmark resolution on women, peace and security.

Strengthening Lebanon’s security institutions will strengthen rule of law. And strengthening rule of law will promote Human Rights. As such, I want to express today my Government’s Commitment to take steps to activate our National Human Rights Commission in the coming months.

We are also currently working on establishing a specialized Human Security Unit under the Presidency of the Council of Ministers which will focus on raising national awareness on the risk of possession and use of firearms by the civilians. As a future step, we plan to create a National Committee for firearms in Lebanon. This development confirms our engagement in the different contexts of the UN Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects.

My government’s policy is to consolidate strategies for all our security agencies, including the General security, state security and customs, in direct alignment with Sustainable Development Goal 16 and aims at promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

The duties of General Security have increased exponentially.

It had to cope with the massive influx of over 1,2 million displaced Syrians, while bearing the burden of addressing the major security challenges accompanying the crisis, in cooperation with the LAF and ISF.

Excellencies,

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the courage, bravery and commitment of the men and women of the Lebanese Military and Security Forces. Those who serve, those who have given their lives, and those who continue to risk theirs to confront the global threat of terrorism, in all its kinds. They sacrifice to fight and win this common struggle against extremism, intolerance and injustice, in order to safeguard our sovereignty, our diversity, our prosperity, and our way of life.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Stability is not granted. We have to work for it every day. The time for mobilization and for coordination is NOW. Together, we are facing a global threat that commands a global reaction. Lebanon is ready.

Guterres

Guterres said:

Thank you for coming together in support of the people and institutions of Lebanon. Allow me to begin by recalling my close ties with Lebanon and the circumstances surrounding the development of this International Support Group.

The importance of such a partnership emerged during my years as High Commissioner for Refugees. As the dramatic impacts of the Syrian conflict spread well beyond its borders, I saw first-hand the outstanding hospitality the Lebanese people extended to Syrians fleeing violence and destruction. Lebanon has faced an enormous influx of refugees, bringing the total in the country to almost one third of the country’s population. As one can imagine, this has an enormous impact on the country’s economy and society, not to mention the dramatic security challenges owing to the Syrian crisis next door.

Yet Lebanon has displayed admirable solidarity — in contrast to others whose doors have tend to be closed to those in need. It is now essential for the international community to show the same solidarity, a strong solidarity with Lebanon.

Lebanon is a fundamental pillar of stability for the region. This status is the product of tremendous hard work on the part of leaders and citizens alike. The country has known many tribulations over the years.

Yet the Lebanese people have showed great fortitude even when it emerged from a devastating civil war.

And they have demonstrated deep-seated commitment to preserving the country’s diversity and pursuing democracy and human rights. At a time of upheaval across the region, Lebanon cannot afford to be drawn into conflict with its neighbours.

Preserving the stability and unity of Lebanon is essential for Lebanon, the region and the world. We are here together today to act on that understanding. For almost five years, this Support Group has played a vital role.

Prime Minister Gentiloni, I want to acknowledge your leadership in supporting the armed forces and internal security forces of Lebanon.

Italy is a long-standing contributor to UNIFIL and a friend of the Lebanese people.

I would also like to acknowledge the collective efforts by the leadership of Lebanon, represented here by Prime Minister Hariri, to ensure the continued functioning of Lebanon’s state institutions.

I am informed that preparations for parliamentary elections on May 6th are on track. This is a testament to Lebanon’s resilience and commitment to democracy. To maintain that stability, and to ensure further progress, Lebanon must take tangible steps forward and the international community must continue to be unified in support.

The strengthening of Lebanon’s institutions and the extension of state authority throughout its territory are of crucial importance.

Lebanon’s security institutions have made important gains.

In clearing militants from border areas, they have improved security on the eastern border, regained control of territory and consolidated their deployment.

These achievements would not have been possible without the generous support of the United States, the United Kingdom and a growing number of partners.

Last December in Paris, this Support Group underscored that the Lebanese Armed Forces are the only legitimate armed force in Lebanon.

The Group called on all Lebanese parties to resume discussions towards a consensus on a National Defence Strategy that I see is moving forward, and to take tangible steps towards disassociation from and non-interference in external conflicts. And it called on the international community to step up its support to state security institutions. I am pleased to note the positive steps taken since then, including the respective statements of President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri asserting the primacy of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and calling for adherence to the policy of disassociation.

I welcome the strengthened deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces south of the Litani River. I also welcome plans to accelerate further deployment through the establishment of a model regiment in UNIFIL’s area of operations to advance the implementation of resolution 1701, in line with Security Council Resolution 2373 and in the context of the strategic dialogue between the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL.

These, together with the consolidated deployment along the eastern border, have been important advances. Such extension of state authority, through the gradual assumption by the Lebanese Armed Forces of effective and sustainable control of the UNIFIL area of operations and Lebanese territorial waters, is a key element towards achieving the fundamental objectives of Security Council resolution 1701. To this end, well-equipped, well-trained and well-resourced Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces are a prerequisite.

I therefore welcome the updated capabilities development plan presented by the Lebanese Armed Forces, and the first Strategic Plan for the Internal Security Forces. They provide a vision and show that Lebanon is headed in the right direction. I also commend the commitment of the Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces to increase the participation of women at all decision-making levels, in line with Security Council resolution 1325.

I encourage the Government and its security institutions to continue to develop and implement codes of conduct as important measures towards increased respect for human rights and accountability.

Concrete steps towards the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission just announced will be crucial in consolidating the confidence of international partners. This conference is part of a broader agenda, as Prime Minister Hariri just mentioned with meetings in Paris and Brussels to follow, which includes a meeting next month in Paris on economic investment and reform.

Much depends on the ability of Lebanese authorities to seize this moment and to uphold their responsibilities.

Stability requires a transparent, accountable and democratic state, rooted in the rule of law and strong and functional institutions.

International and regional partners must also do their part.

Countries in the region should work to avoid any steps that could lead to misunderstandings, confrontation or escalation.

It will be equally important to keep the international consensus in support of Lebanon together, and to provide the necessary resources.

Let us all remain strongly and visibly committed to stability in Lebanon � for the sake of the Lebanese people and for the wider peace that is so essential at this time.

Gentiloni

For his part, Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni stressed that relations between Lebanon and Italy are historic and growing strongly, and that this conference is designed to emphasize and enhance the contribution of Italy and the international community.

He said: We welcome Prime Minister Hariri and the accompanying delegation, and applaud in particular the partnership of Secretary General Guterres and salute his presence representing the United Nations, which shows the commitment of the world and the international community to Lebanon’s security and stability.

He added: This conference held in Rome is to confirm the strong support of the international community to Lebanon, the important state in the Middle East and the Mediterranean that encountered difficulties but is characterized by great religious diversity and has a great importance in the security of Europe and Asia. This region faced several crises that threatened its stability from violence, extremism, conflicts and economic difficulties.

Lebanon in turn faced crises that tried to destabilize it, but social, sectarian and economic diversity was a special advantage, in addition to its geographic location. Thus, Lebanon’s stability is fundamental to the consolidation of stability throughout the Mediterranean region. It is important to send a key message that the international community, through the Rome conference, stands by Lebanon. The Paris conference that will be held in April on economic issues is also an important conference, as is the Brussels conference on responding to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the issue of displaced people.

Therefore, the important solidarity with the Lebanese people, who in turn showed exceptional solidarity with the Syrian crisis and the displaced Syrians, is also an international so that it can fulfill its obligations and continue its work.

He continued: This conference has a strong message. It is a great symbol of standing by Lebanon, and an opportunity to reiterate the solidarity of the international community with Lebanon in its security and prosperity. Security is a necessary and fundamental condition for stability. Also, the territorial integrity of Lebanon must be respected so that the country can maintain its political and economic stability.

Everyone agrees on the need to support the Lebanese economic institutions and the legitimacy of the state and the government. In this context, our support to the armed forces, the internal security forces and the Lebanese institutions is fundamental for Lebanon’s security and peace, especially in fighting Daesh and protecting the country against the terrorist attacks and its cultural and religious diversity. Lebanon fought this war with the support of all political forces. The policy of disassociation and non-interference in the region’s conflicts is a political consensus that was reaffirmed today in the speech of Prime Minister Hariri and through President Aoun’s statement which consolidates dialogue with all Lebanese factions and defines a Lebanese defense strategy.

He concluded: Supporting Lebanon to enhance its constitutional institutions and realize achievements is a fundamental issue. This is an international responsibility and we must contribute collectively to protect Lebanon’s stability and strengthen its military forces so it is able to defend itself, within a strategy that allows it to enjoy permanent stability. Italy invested in supporting Lebanon and its military forces through Italy’s contribution in the UNIFIL and we will continue to do so.

Source: National News Agency