US conveys support for Lebanon’s stability

President Aoun holds talks with US Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker in Beirut. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs Joel Rayburn was also present. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2019

US conveys support for Lebanon’s stability

  • Aoun expressed concern that the issue of Syrian refugees might be exploited politically rather than dealt with from a humanitarian point of view

BEIRUT:  Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun on Tuesday urged the US to help find a solution to a maritime border dispute with Israel, as Beirut aims to begin offshore oil and gas exploration.
Aoun made the request during talks with David Schenker, the US assistant secretary of state for the region, who is on a two-day visit to Lebanon as part of a regional tour.
Schenker recently replaced David Satterfield, who had shuffled between Lebanon and Israel in attempts to reach a settlement. “Lebanon hopes the US will continue its mediation efforts ... where things stopped with envoy David Satterfield,” Aoun said.
Aoun said Israel “continues its aggression against Lebanese sovereignty by land, air and sea, knowing that any escalation will bring down the stability that has been experienced in the border region since the July 2006 war.”
Schenker said the US was ready to “renew efforts toward the demarcation of land and sea borders in south Lebanon,” and was keen to strengthen bilateral relations, especially in terms of supporting the Lebanese military and security forces.
Schenker arrived in Beirut on Monday evening for his first visit to Lebanon as part of a tour of the region.
The US Embassy in Lebanon said his tour also includes Iraq, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and aims to “underscore the importance of bilateral relations and the deep commitment of the US to continue to work with its partners and allies to achieve stability in the Middle East and North Africa.”
In his meeting with Aoun, Schenker was joined by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs Joel Rayburn.

Aoun told Schenker Lebanon was proceeding with the return of Syrian refugees to their country, and that 352,000 had done so voluntarily, without problems in Syria.
 

HIGHLIGHTS

• Top US official says Washington is keen to strengthen bilateral relations, especially in terms of supporting the Lebanese military and security forces.

• President Michel Aoun expresses hope that the US will resume its mediation to demarcate land and sea borders in southern Lebanon.

Aoun urged the US to help in this regard, saying his country “can no longer bear more after the increasing number of refugees has resulted in negative repercussions on all Lebanese sectors.”
He reiterated his call for UN organizations and other humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to refugees in Syria as this will encourage them to return.
Aoun expressed concern that the issue of Syrian refugees might be exploited politically rather than dealt with from a humanitarian point of view. He thanked the US for its assistance to Lebanon in general, and the army in particular.
Schenker visited Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who said: “Lebanon ratified financial laws that make it conform to the highest international standards in the fight against financial trafficking and money laundering.”
Berri added: “Lebanon is keen to maintain stability, avoid getting dragged into war and abide by international resolutions. The Israeli enemy is responsible for … undermining the stability that has existed since 2006.”
His press office said he and Schenker discussed maritime borders. The latter’s first meeting in Beirut was with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Schenker also met with army officials.


Algeria to go the polls on December 12, says interim president

Updated 15 September 2019

Algeria to go the polls on December 12, says interim president

ALGIERS: Algeria — whose president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in April following mass protests — is to hold a presidential election on December 12, his interim successor announced Sunday.

"I have decided... that the date of the presidential election will be Thursday, December 12," said Abdelkader Bensalah, who is precluded from standing himself, in a televised address.

The announcement comes after army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, seen as the strongman in Algeria since the fall of Bouteflika, insisted that polls be held by the end of this year, despite ongoing protests demanding the creation of new institutions ahead of any elections.