Lebanese President Michel Aoun began a three-day state visit to France for talks with President Emmanuel Macron and other senior French officials focusing on bilateral relations, military aid to the Lebanese Army, the Syrian refugee crisis and Saudi Arabia’s scrapped $4 billion gift to the Army, ministerial sources said.
Macron welcomed Aoun at the Elysée Palace Monday and discussed with him the latest developments.
Following the meeting, Macron hailed the recent efforts deployed by the Lebanese army in fighting terrorism on Lebanon’s border with Syria. He stressed that France is keen on Lebanon’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity.
“France’s goal is to confront the dangers that undermine peace in Lebanon by strengthening the capabilities of the army so the Lebanese government can take control of the entire territory,” he said.
Macron further promised organizing three conferences to support Lebanon: A donor conference to encourage investment, a conference for the Syrian refugees and another one to aid the Lebanese Army in coordination with Italy and the UN.
French presidential sources said the donor conference that Paris is planning to hold in the next few months in Beirut concerning the Syrian refugees “does not aim to push for their return to Syria or to speed it up, but rather to lessen the burdens placed on Lebanon and to discuss their needs and the means of accepting them in the hosting environments.”
For his part, Aoun stressed the importance of the urgent return of the Syrian refugees to their country.
“The majority of the refugees’ homelands are now considered as safe zones. In this case, we can’t wait for them to voluntarily leave Lebanon”. He added that Syrian refugees “are living in a difficult situation.”
Earlier, Aoun started his official visit to France with a ceremony at the iconic Paris landmark, the Arc de Triomphe.
An official ceremony in honor of Aoun was then held where the Lebanese President laid wreaths at the base of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Aoun is accompanied by an official delegation and First Lady Nadia Aoun.