Statement by Ambassador David Hale Following His Meeting with Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouk

Good morning.  I just had an excellent meeting with Minister Machnouk.  A prime topic was his upcoming visit to Washington.  We very much welcome his visit and look forward to senior level discussions on how we can further deepen security cooperation between our two countries.

Lebanon is facing serious challenges and threats, and we need to be sober about them.  The spillover of terrorism and extremism from Syria is not over.  The harm to Lebanese stability caused by Hizballah’s violation of the policy of dissociation continues.  Hizballah’s readiness to violate international norms and UN Security Council resolutions was made self-evident in January.  Hizballah continues to make life and death decisions for all of Lebanon, yet consults no one, is accountable to no Lebanese, and answers to foreign powers.  We all know the difficulties brought upon Lebanon by the presence of so many refugees from Syria.  While the United States has contributed $660 million to date to help Lebanon cope with the humanitarian needs of the refugees and Lebanon’s host communities, we know the stress is enormous.  Economic trends in the country have been downward since the presidency fell vacant.

Disputes over the election of a president have brought the normal functioning of government to a standstill.  Yet, this is a time when all elements of the state should be working in unison to address these and other problems, in accordance with the Constitution and the National Pact.  There is no reason for delay and it is time to put Lebanon’s stability ahead of partisan politics.  There should be no expectation of foreign deals to choose a president.  Instead of looking outside Lebanon for answers, we urge Lebanon’s leaders to respect their own Constitution and elect their own president, on their own.

Meanwhile, as you face these security challenges arising from Syria, it is important to look at Lebanon’s sources of strength.  First, the Army and security services have the will and commitment to defend Lebanon, and are doing so with courage.  Second, the Lebanese nation is united behind the effort to counter violent extremism.  Third, you are not alone.  You can count on continuous and meaningful support from the United States and others to ensure that the Army has the means to fight.  Fourth, our common values distinguish us from these barbaric extremists.  Our values are stronger than the false appeal from the extremists, and therefore we will prevail.  And finally, the international community may have differences elsewhere in the region, but it is united in its desire to help Lebanon insulate itself from these external threats and conflicts.  Tackling the threats will not be easy, but I am confident that, together, we will succeed.  Thank you very much.