Lebanese Information Center
Annual Meetings at United Nations Headquarters in New York

September 21, 2016

On September 21, 2016, a delegation from the Lebanese Information Center led by LIC President Dr. Joseph Gebeily held a series of key meetings at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, NY. The LIC delegation also included LIC Director Fadi Farhat, and members of the LICís United Nations team, Augustus Sleiman, Melanie Raffoul, and Cynthia Ayoub.

World leaders began gathering in New York starting in mid-September for the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the global refugee crisis, in particular as it relates to the devastating war in Syria. It was an ideal opportunity for the LIC to present its views and recommendations on a host of relevant topics, including the Syrian conflict, Syrian refugees, Lebanese security and border control, the presidential vacuum, and the impact of regional turmoil on both Lebanon and the United States.

ďThe key global issues on the table this year at the United Nations -- refugees, the Syrian conflict, and security -- are challenges Lebanon has been facing head-on over the past five years and beyond, in addition to its two-year presidential crisis,Ē said Dr. Gebeily. ďDuring its meetings at the UN, the LIC presented a series of recommendations to address these global issues and to bring stability to Lebanon and the region -- but only with the continued support of the United Nations, the United States, and other relevant bodies.Ē

At the UNís Department of Political Affairs (UNDPA), the LIC delegation met with the team of Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, a longtime friend of Lebanon and of the LICís cause. His representatives at the meeting were Erwan Pouchous and Martin Waelisch, both political affairs officers in the Middle East and West Asia section, and Aurelie Proust, from the Office of the Special Envoy on UNSCR 1559. The meeting covered the overall political and security situation, and in particular the full implementation of UNSCRs 1701 and 1559 as they relate to disarming militias and securing borders. The LIC demanded that Iran be held accountable for breaching UNSC resolutions on Lebanon, ahead of the upcoming International Support Group for Lebanon summit. ďAs long as Lebanonís borders are not fully secure, destabilizing actors like Hezbollah and Sunni jihadist militants will continue to use the Lebanese-Syrian frontier to wreak havoc across the region,Ē said Dr. Gebeily. UNDPA officials, meanwhile, expressed their satisfaction with the Lebanese armyís deployment along the eastern borders, a vital passageway for non-state armed groups into and out of Lebanon. They also inquired about new appointments in Lebanonís security agencies.  

The LIC also met with William Wagner, political affairs officer at the U.S. mission to the United Nations. Mr. Wagner relayed to the group greetings from Ambassador Michele Sison the Deputy Permanent Representative. The crux of the meeting was Lebanonís continued presidential vacuum, which is dragging the country towards total governmental collapse. ďIran continues to block the election of a president for Lebanon via the boycott of its proxy, Hezbollah,Ē said Dr. Gebeily. US officials renewed their commitment to Lebanonís security, stability, and the full functionality of its state institutions.

The next meeting on the delegation's agenda was with the UNís Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Here, the LIC met with Ms. Paola Emerson, who heads the Middle East and North Africa section, and humanitarian officer Mr. Sina Khabirpour. ďLebanon hosts the largest per-capita refugee population in the world, so the LIC deeply appreciates the continuous, open dialogue we have with OCHA representatives,Ē said Dr. Gebeily. Lebanon hosts more than one million Syrian refugees in addition to hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Palestinian territories, Iraq, and other countries. Tensions with and among refugees are on the rise over strained infrastructure and limited resources. The LIC stressed the need for countries to fulfill their humanitarian assistance pledges to Lebanon in the immediate term, and for the expedition of resettlement programs to regional and international countries to lift the burden on Lebanon. OCHA supported these views and welcomed additional dialogue with Lebanese officials to ensure that Lebanonís host communities and the refugee population live stable and secure lives of dignity.

The delegation concluded with a meeting at the mission of the Holy See with the Vaticanís Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. In attendance also was the Holy Mission First Secretary, Monsignor Simon Kassas. LIC representatives spent over an hour and a half in a lively and informative discussion with Cardinal Parolin covering Lebanese, Syrian, and broader regional developments.

The LIC presented two papers during the meeting: one stressing that the solution to the predicament of Middle East Christians is in democratic, pluralistic states based on human rights, equal citizenship, and rule of law; and a second renewing the call for a Vatican-led initiative, to end Lebanonís presidential crisis. The documents were well-received by Cardinal Parolin, who promised to follow up on the LICís proposals and stressed Lebanonís importance as the last bastion of Christianity in the Middle East. The LIC was honored to meet Cardinal Parolin and is looking forward to keeping the line of communication to his office open.

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