Good afternoon everyone and I am just really delighted to be here back at the Serail to greet the Prime Minister and congratulate him on the new government. It has been a long time coming and we are just thrilled that there is finally a government.
I congratulated the Prime Minister just now on the successful vote of confidence in his new government. And we reviewed the very broad range of areas in which the United States is already working with Lebanon, and we reviewed what his priorities are going forward.
I was also very frank with the Prime Minister about US concern over the growing role in the Cabinet of an organization that continues to maintain a militia that is not under the control of the government. That continues to make its own national security decisions – decisions that endanger the rest of the country. And that continues to violate the government’s disassociation policy by participating in armed conflict in at least three other countries.
This state of affairs does not contribute to stability. In fact, it is fundamentally destabilizing. Nevertheless, I am very hopeful that Lebanon will not be derailed from the path of progress now before it. In that spirit, I brought with me today a team of senior U.S. Embassy officials — which includes our Director of USAID for Lebanon, our Defense Attaché, our Refugees Affairs Advisor, and our Counselor for Political and Economic issues
And we came to review the breadth and depth of U.S. support available for education and development; for helping Lebanese communities deal with the unprecedented demands placed on them when their Syrian neighbors fled the brutal Assad’s Regime; for building a capable and respected military that protects its citizens under the sovereign control of their elected leaders; and for addressing a range of difficult economic issues.
I told the Prime Minister that the United States is proud to be the largest provider of development, humanitarian, and security assistance to Lebanon. In just this last year alone, the United States provided more than $825 million in U.S. assistance – and that’s an increase over the previous year.
From the time of the first Lebanese who emigrated from Lebanon to the United States in the 1850s, to the establishment by Americans of the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University, to today, as we invest over a billion dollars in a new Embassy compound in Awkar.
We want to continue our longstanding and comprehensive support for Lebanon. As Secretary Pompeo said just very recently, “We are partners with Lebanon to achieve a good outcome for the people of Lebanon.”
Thank you very much. I am very happy to be back here at the Serail helping the government get to work.