Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Press Statement by Under Secretary of State William Burns Following a meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri

February 16, 2010
Good evening. I’m very pleased to be back in Lebanon. I was last here exactly five years ago today, when I represented the United States at the funeral of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. I was proud to support Lebanon and its sovereignty and independence at that tragic moment, and I’m proud today to convey President Obama’s strong and continuing support for Lebanon as the Lebanese government seeks to strengthen state institutions and build peace and stability within Lebanon, and contribute to peace and stability throughout the region.
As President Obama emphasized to President Sleiman during his visit to Washington last December, and as he emphasized to Prime Minister Hariri in his telephone call last week, Lebanon can count on continued American assistance. American aid has totaled over one billion dollars since 2006, with significant support for the Lebanese Armed Forces. We hope and expect that the Government of Lebanon will exercise its legitimate authority over all of Lebanon. We remain committed to the full implementation of all of the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, including Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701.
As Senator Mitchell has repeatedly stressed, we remain committed to the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Arabs and Israelis, with progress on all tracks of the peace process. Our efforts on the Palestinian-Israeli track will not come at Lebanon’s expense. As Senator Mitchell has stated, the United States will not support the forced naturalization of Palestinians in Lebanon. Nor will our continuing efforts to engage Syria and explore improved relations come at the expense of our deep commitment to Lebanon and to the Lebanese people. All of these efforts are complementary and mutually reinforcing, not contradictory. I’m grateful to Prime Minister Hariri, to President Sleiman, and the other senior Lebanese leaders with whom I have met today for their hospitality and for an excellent set of discussions, and I look forward to visiting again soon and to continuing to do all that I can to support Lebanese-American partnership.
Thank you very much.
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