Lebanon told of France’s support on security and refugees
Lebanon – Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, in his joint declaration with Mr Tammam Salam, Prime Minister of Lebanon (excerpts).
Beirut, 16 April 2016
Today, as yesterday, France stands by Lebanon, through ties of history, certainly, through geographical proximity, definitely, and also through the bonds that have been forged, generation after generation, between French and Lebanese people. And there’s also culture and language: the language that allows culture to spread, and the culture that enables all languages to be discovered. And for decades, in spite of all the ordeals your country has been through – and there have been a number –, we French and Lebanese have ensured we’ve always been together; and whenever France has been attacked, undermined, you yourselves, the Lebanese, have been there. (…)
What is France’s responsibility to Lebanon today? First of all, to mobilize the international community. Lebanon has taken in more than 1.5 million refugees. Lebanon’s economy has been affected by what’s happening next to it: a war. Lebanon also needs to be strengthened, and it has every capability to make its development a success, with an especially effective financial system. France will mobilize the international community, and on 27 May the Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, will come to Lebanon. He’ll also convene the International Support Group for Lebanon so that we can combine all the goodwill, all the initiatives, all the donations for Lebanon.
France is also committed to Lebanon’s security, because in a way – and I repeat it for other regions of the world and above all this one – Lebanon’s security and Middle East peace mean security for France and peace in the world. So we’ll make sure – and that’s the purpose of Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s presence here – to provide immediate help to strengthen Lebanon’s military capabilities, particularly to combat terrorism but also to face any threat. In the coming days, Jean-Yves Le Drian and his counterpart will set out what material resources can be very quickly made available to Lebanon to guarantee its security.
Lastly there’s the issue of solidarity with Lebanon on the issue of refugees. Lebanon has very bravely faced up to the influx of refugees from Syria and made an exceptional effort to take people in, in material conditions that are a credit to your country. So there too, I’ve decided France must stand alongside you. French aid to the refugees who are in Lebanon will be increased to €50 million this year and €100 million over the next three years. We’ll also make sure to embark on our programme of resettling refugees from Lebanon, with the support of the UNHCR, the High Commissioner for Refugees, so that we can be in line with the commitments I’ve made on France’s behalf, in Europe, for the distribution of refugees. I’ll also be in Jordan to provide this same resettlement programme.
Finally there’s culture. We also wanted this visit to signal what we share, what enables us to have influence throughout the world. Lebanon has influence as a country, but also through all the Lebanese people who live around the world, speak French and promote French culture. You were talking about the laïque [secular] (1) mission, with all these establishments, all these missions throughout the world which ensure that French can be taught and that French culture and, I should say, French-language culture – which aren’t the same thing – can be shared. And there too, I welcome the Salon du Livre [book fair] which is going to be held here in Beirut in November, one of the world’s greatest French-language fairs. We have loads of projects for cinema and the fine arts, because in Lebanon – as is often the case with peoples who have been in very great difficulty, whose very existence, whose very lives are under threat – there’s a kind of vitality, energy and creativity that also justify France standing beside you, because you’re our friends and because, more than ever, we want to be yours. (…).
(1) laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.