ROME: Italian President Sergio Mattarella said Lebanon must be supported by the international community as it represented “the key to the stability of the Middle East.”
Lebanon’s difficult economic situation and the need for Syrian refugees to return to their homeland were the main issues of a long meeting in Rome between Mattarella and Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a source in the Italian presidency told Arab News.
Lebanese Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah Bou Habib also attended the meeting at the Quirinale Palace, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Italian Parliament via video link.
Mattarella told Aoun: “Lebanon is the key to the stability of the Middle East. For this reason, the country must receive great support and solidarity from the international community so that it continues to guarantee its own security and overcome the serious and urgent political, economic, and humanitarian problems.”
In their talks, the two presidents also covered issues related to the crisis in Ukraine, the situation in Yemen and Libya, the nuclear negotiations with Iran, and the general situation in the Gulf.
Aoun told the Italian daily La Repubblica that he saw “a grim future ahead for Lebanon” due to the war in Ukraine.
“The food safety crisis is now our biggest priority, and it is even more important in our internal political situation,” he said.
With Lebanon importing more than 70 percent of its grain needs from Ukraine and Russia, he said the supply was likely to become difficult due to the conflict.
“Lebanon absolutely needs support, especially with regard to its food needs because we are going through a period of extreme poverty that particularly affects some segments of the population,” he added.