BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed hope in securing the requisite funding for Lebanon's different security institutions as an international donor conference in Rome kicked off Thursday, prompting the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to urge the international community to show strong solidarity with Lebanon.
The Rome II conference, which brings together 41 nations states, set the stage for Lebanese officials vying to boost the army's and security agencies' capabilities as the country continues to deal with the over one million Syrian refugees it is currently hosting.
Addressing participants, Hariri acknowledged that "bolstering our security institutions is paramount to maintaining Lebanon's sovereignty."
Lebanon has been dealt the brunt of the Syrian civil war, as the spillover from the war-torn country has taken its toll on its security and economy. Lebanon has faced intermittent terrorist attacks while coping with an excess of one million Syrian refugees scattered along its territory.
Yet by establishing further cooperation with the international community, Hariri was adamant that "Lebanon can overcome these challenges."
Touching on recent Israeli violations along the southern border, the Lebanese premier highlighted the fact that Lebanon has been abiding by "United Nations (UN) resolutions 1201 and 2372" while underscoring the need for "Israel to seize its incursions on Lebanese territory."
"We will continue sending troops to the southern border while conducting ourselves in an exemplified manner," he said.
Echoing Hariri's remarks, Guterres told participants that "Lebanon’s security institutions have made important gains" in recent years while calling on the international community to throw their support behind Lebanon's different institutions.
In the summer of 2017, Lebanon's military undertook a wide-scale offensive to root out Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra militants entrenched along its borders with Syria, most notably in the mountainous regions of Arsal and Baalbeck.
Guterres praised the army's success, which paved the way for "improving security on the eastern border and regaining control of territory."
As the country enters a critical juncture in terms of its economic health and political stability, both Hariri and Guterres highlighted the need for the country to implement reforms across the board ahead of the Paris IV donor conference on April 6.
While in Paris, Lebanese officials will seek to raise over 16 billion dollars for a 12-year investment program, with its success hinging "on the ability of Lebanese authorities to seize this moment and to uphold their responsibilities," Guterres said.
"Stability requires a transparent, accountable and democratic state, rooted in the rule of law and strong and functional institutions," the Secretary-General affirmed.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri pictured alongside representatives from the 41 nation states taking part in the Rome II conference (Annahar Photo)
Upon his arrival in Rome, Hariri told reporters that he expects "fellow Arab states to throw their support behind Lebanon."
"God willing, this conference will enhance Lebanon's stability and security," he said, before assuring that "all political parties have been abiding by the policy of self-dissociation."
The Lebanese Army leadership, in coordination with General Security, will submit a 5-year strategy highlighting the threats it faces as a result of spillover from the Syrian civil war which "has increased the threat of terrorism within our borders," Hariri added.
He also discussed with Russian envoy Mikhail Bogdanov the promotion of Lebanese-Russian bilateral ties, with Bogdanov pledging to cooperate with Lebanon's government and provide the necessary support for "its army in its fight against IS and Jabhat al-Nusra."
"Our relationship with Lebanon goes back a long time," Bogdanov said, adding that "we're always working hand in hand with Lebanon in our fight against terrorism."
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