Calling Lebanon “a fundamental pillar of stability” in the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday told a high-level meeting in Rome that it is absolutely essential for the international community to show strong solidarity with the country.
“Preserving the stability and unity of Lebanon is essential for Lebanon, the region and the world,” Mr. Guterres said in his opening remarks at the Ministerial meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon.
“At a time of upheaval across the region, Lebanon cannot afford to be drawn into conflict with its neighbours,” he added, underscoring that countries in the region should work to avoid any steps that could lead to misunderstanding, confrontation or escalation.
Acknowledging the tremendous hard work on the part of Lebanon’s leaders and citizens, Mr. Guterres noted that preparations for parliamentary elections in early May are on track.
He also underscored the crucial importance of strengthening Lebanon’s institutions and the extension of State authority throughout its territory for stability and further progress.
While welcoming the strengthened deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces south of the Litani River, he underscored that the Updated Capabilities Development Plan presented by the Lebanese Armed Forces and the first Strategic Plan for the Internal Security Forces show that “Lebanon is headed in the right direction.”
The Secretary-General encouraged the Government and its security institutions to continue to develop and implement codes of conduct as important measures towards increased respect for human rights and accountability.
Pointing to the conference as part of a broader agenda, he flagged that much depends on the Lebanese authorities’ ability to seize the moment and uphold their responsibilities.
“Stability requires a transparent, accountable and democratic state, rooted in the rule of law and strong and functional institutions,” he emphasized, urging all to remain strongly and visibly committed to stability in Lebanon – “for the sake of the Lebanese people and for the wider peace that is so essential at this time.”
Speaking to reporters later, the UN chief said that while the wider Middle East is “in a mess,” Lebanon stood as the exception.
He spotlighted this as the moment when the international community must express its full commitment and support, saying it is a question of enlightened self-interest.
“To support the Lebanese unity and stability is to support the stability in the whole region and to contribute to diminish the dramatic stress in relation to peace that we are facing today in the world,” he concluded.