ROME: Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will next week become the latest world leader to visit Beirut offering support in the aftermath of last month’s devastating port explosion.
According to Italian Foreign Undersecretary Manlio Di Stefano, the premier will on Tuesday hold “day-long talks with the top political and institutional figures in Lebanon and will also meet representatives of the local civil society.”
Last week, after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut, Italian Minister of Defense Lorenzo Guerini also announced that Conte would be making the trip.
Guerini described the PM’s coming visit as a new “tangible sign of the brotherhood between the two countries” following the ammonium nitrate blast in a dock warehouse on Aug. 4, which left more than 180 people dead and at least 6,000 injured.
In a telephone call with former Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab immediately after the huge explosion, Conte had expressed his country’s “deepest condolences” and offered his “unconditional support” to Lebanon.
A few days later Guerini flew to Beirut to present emergency aid, mobilized by his country’s military, which was transported in two Italian Navy vessels as part of a humanitarian mission dubbed Emergenza Cedri (Cedar Emergency). A field hospital, and the services of explosive and chemical experts were also made available to the Lebanese by the Italians.
Approximately 1,200 Italian soldiers who are part of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which is under Italian command, are now stationed in Lebanon. In the past 38 years, Italian military forces have never ceased to be present in the country.
An Italian diplomatic source in Rome told Arab News that Conte would have talks in the Lebanese capital with Aoun, Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, and “representatives of all the political forces in that country.”
According to Di Stefano the Italian PM would also visit the site of the explosion in the Port of Beirut and inspect the Italian emergency aid deployed there soon after the blast.
“The aim of this coming official visit is to testify and reaffirm, once again, that we want to contribute to reconstruct not only the Lebanese economy, but also social and political structures in that country,” he told the Italian Parliament’s Lower Chamber.
“Once the emergency phase has been overcome and the new Lebanese government has been formed, the international community will have to support the country’s economic and financial recovery and contribute to its full stabilization.
“Italy has always pursued this strategic target in the interests of the Mediterranean area and of the international community. We are and will continue to stand alongside Lebanon,” Di Stefano said.
He noted that at the CEDRE Conference in Paris in April 2018, Italy had pledged 120 million euros ($142 million) to strengthen Lebanese institutions and the country’s economy.
Lebanon is one of the main beneficiary countries of Italy’s development cooperation in sectors ranging from archaeological heritage to wastewater treatment infrastructures, and it also receives Italian support for vulnerable groups in the population and Syrian refugees living there.