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.


Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

An Iranian army soldier walks through a temporary hospital in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
Updated 30 March 2020

Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

  • Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible”

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani has warned that “the new way of life” in Iran was likely to be prolonged, as its declared death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 2,640.
Iran is one of the countries worst-hit by the virus, which first originated in China.
Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January.
At his daily news briefing, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 123 more people in Iran had died from the virus in the past 24 hours.
He reported 2,901 new cases of COVID-19 infection, bringing the overall number of officially confirmed cases to 38,309.
According to the official, 12,391 of those hospitalized have recovered and 3,467 are in “critical” condition.
“We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting.
“The new way of life we have adopted” is to everyone’s benefit, he said, adding that “these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time.”
After weeks of refraining from imposing lockdown or quarantine measures, Tehran decided Wednesday to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.
Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible.” Schools and universities in some provinces were closed in late February and the measure was later extended to the whole country.
After Rouhani’s warning, the reopening of schools following this year’s new year holidays of March 19 to April 3 appears unlikely.

FASTFACT

Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January

On a positive note, Rouhani said he had been told by top health experts and doctors that “in some provinces we have passed the peak (of the epidemic) and are on a downward trajectory.”
Several Iranian government officials and notable figures have been infected by the new coronavirus, some of whom have died.
The most recent case of infection was Mohammed-Reza Khatami, brother of former president Mohammad Khatami and an ex-deputy speaker of parliament.
He is currently hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister who tested positive for the virus in late February, has returned to public life and appeared on state television to emphasize safety precautions.