Good afternoon. Prime Minister Salam and I met today to discuss the upcoming meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon at the UN General Assembly later this month, and yesterday’s discussion of Lebanon in the Security Council. It is safe to say that the international community’s support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and stability is as strong as ever.
We also discussed the challenges facing the government, especially in light of continued civil society demonstrations. We spoke about the importance of one of our shared core values, the right of free speech and assembly. Peaceful, non-violent protest is an integral part of our two nations’ histories, and enshrined in both of our constitutions. The Prime Minister and I agree, it is a right that must be protected and respected, as it is essential for true stability in any society. Citizens everywhere look to the state to protect their right to free speech and assembly; and citizens everywhere have a responsibility to exercise their right peacefully and responsibly. Accountability is expected when either side transgresses rights or responsibilities.
The challenges facing Lebanon are serious: there are security, political, economic, and humanitarian problems, so many of them spilling over from the conflict in Syria. During these difficult times, Lebanon’s people, leaders, and institutions should come together, not pull apart. Only by acting together in the national interest can these challenges be overcome for the sake of the Lebanese people.
America welcomes any efforts to reactivate a functioning government and cabinet. But there is a deeper issue. As the members of the UN Security Council reiterated yesterday, now is the time for parliament to meet and elect a president of the republic as soon as possible. America will continue to support the army and security services as institutions with one and only one objective in mind: the strengthening of the army’s means to be the sole legitimate protector of Lebanon’s people and borders, including from extremist threats. And we will continue to support the principle of civil society’s right to voice its views and frustrations without taking sides. Although these problems can only be resolved by the Lebanese themselves, America stands ready to support Lebanon’s institutions and the Lebanese people each step of the way. Thank you.