Good morning. I am here at the Grand Serail today joined by a visitor from Washington, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dr. Andrew Exum. We met with Prime Minister Salam to discuss America’s continued military cooperation with and strong support and commitment to Lebanon.
We also discussed with the Prime Minister the challenges facing the government, especially in the wake of this weekend’s demonstrations. We spoke about the importance of one of our core shared values, the right of free speech and assembly. The American and Lebanese constitutions support the right to peaceful protest. This is a right integral to both our nations’ values and histories. As the Prime Minister said in his remarks yesterday, it is a right that must be protected. If that right is found to be violated, there needs to be accountability as Prime Minister Salam has called for.
I am deeply troubled by the images and reports of injuries. We support a thorough investigation, and accountability, and restraint.
This weekend, Lebanon’s vibrant civil society voiced its frustration over the political paralysis that has held Lebanon captive for too long. I reiterated America’s strong support for the Prime Minister’s efforts to advance political consensus so the cabinet can work on many urgent issues. All sides of the Lebanese political spectrum have a responsibility to their constituencies to act in the national interest. Lebanon’s citizens deserve to have basic services they can count upon, just as they deserve a parliament that overcomes its divisions and elects a president. America has and will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Lebanon as it faces these challenges.