Italian PM to visit Beirut in wake of devastating port blast

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. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 04 September 2020

Italian PM to visit Beirut in wake of devastating port blast

  • Conte to meet Lebanese politicians, representatives over recovery support  

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.


New co-chairs of UK Parliament Palestine group urge settlement goods boycott

Updated 49 min 58 sec ago

New co-chairs of UK Parliament Palestine group urge settlement goods boycott

  • Julie Elliot: ‘It’s time that the British government stood up for international law’
  • Baroness Sayeeda Warsi: ‘Palestinian rights must be continually raised in the UK Parliament’

LONDON: The two new co-chairs of the Britain-Palestine All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) have urged the UK government to “stand up for international law” by banning all imports from illegal Israeli settlements.

Julie Elliot, a member of the UK’s main opposition Labour Party and one of the two new co-chairs, also said Britain should recognize Palestine as a state.

In a message released online to mark her election to the APPG, she said: “It’s time that the British government stood up for international law, sought action against products from the settlements — ban them in this country — and also move towards helping to end the blockade on Gaza, which has brought such dreadful, dreadful suffering to the people of Gaza.” She added: “It’s time for the British government to recognize Palestine. The time is now.”

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the other new co-chair and former co-chair of the governing Conservative Party, said: “Palestinian rights must be continually raised in the UK Parliament. It’s vital that we continue to pressure the UK government to act to end the occupation and to stand up for international law.” 

APPGs are groups in UK politics convened across party lines that meet to discuss, campaign on and promote a certain issue. They are often effective parts of wider parliamentary campaigns.

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, welcomed the election of Elliot and Warsi as the APPG’s new co-chairs. 

“They’re two politicians who understand the Palestinian issue, and it’s really important to push things, as they both have, such as British recognition of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital,” he told Arab News.

“The Palestine APPG is one of the best supported in Parliament — that’s a sign of the interest in the issue.”

But Doyle said they may have their work cut out in getting their message on Palestine across. “The challenge right now is to give airtime to any issue that isn’t COVID-19 or the American elections,” he added.

“The conflict issues in the Middle East are starved of the sort of attention they need because of the pandemic.”