“The continuing Israeli threats to Lebanon and the unstable conditions that surround the region necessitate an extension of the mandate of the international forces operating in the south, according to the same conditions as to the tasks entrusted to the UNIFIL, the number of personnel and the budget allocated to this force,” said President Michel Aoun to his host, the Italian Defense Minister, Elisabetta Trenta whom he received this Tuesday at the Baabda Palace as part of her Lebanon official visit.
“These forces play an important role in maintaining security and stability on the southern border, in cooperation with the Lebanese Army,” the President said.
President Aoun congratulated Minister Trenta on the appointment of General Stefano Del Cole as the new UNIFIL commander, replacing General Michael Beary, wishing him success in his new mission.
He also praised the role played by the Italian contingent within the UNIFIL and commended its security and social role, as well as its relations with the sons of the South.
During the meeting, which was attended by the Italian Ambassador to Beirut Massimo Marotti, Italian Army Commander General Claudio Graziano and a number of assistants to the Italian minister, President Aoun stressed the importance of the historic relations between Lebanon and Italy, based on common cultural values.
“Italy is second only to China in export movement to Lebanon,” he said, thanking the assistance it provides to Lebanon in general and to the army and security forces in particular.
He also underlined Italy’s role in organizing the Rome 1 and Rome II conferences.
The President briefed Trenta on Lebanon’s position vis-a-vis the current developments, especially the issue of the return of Syrian refugees to their country after the Russian initiative to facilitate their return. He wished Italy would “assist in this and not to link the safe return of these displaced people to an agreement on a political solution to the Syrian crisis; a solution that may take long to be established.”
“The influx of Syrian refugees to Lebanon was for security and not political reasons, and with the gradual disappearance of these reasons, a safe return must be achieved,” he maintained, stressing that “stability in the Middle East requires a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Palestinian cause which has lasted 70 years, and the Palestinian people are still waiting for this solution.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Minister Trenta conveyed to President Aoun the greetings of the Italian government and thanked him for the hospitality she received during her stay in Lebanon. She reiterated Italy’s “commitment to working within the international forces in the south, especially after the appointment of an Italian commander to this force,” supporting Lebanon’s request for the extension of the “UNIFIL” term without any modification of its functions.
The Italian minister congratulated Lebanon on “the achievement of the electoral process”, uttering “the readiness of the Italian government to strengthen the capabilities of all the Lebanese institutions and administrations, especially the army, at the training and equipping levels.”
She pointed out that “the Government of Italy has opened funds for Lebanon and asked the Italian companies to contribute to the ongoing process of advancement,” commending “the care provided by Lebanon to the displaced Syrians,” and expressing the readiness of her country “to contribute to alleviating the burdens suffered by Lebanon as a result of the influx of huge numbers of displaced persons.”