U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Ambassador Richard H. Jones’ Statement After His Meeting with Prime Minister Salam

Good afternoon everybody.  I’ve just had a very productive meeting with the Prime Minister and I wished him Ramadan Kareem and congratulated him on the successful completion of the municipal elections, which the United States views as very important for the restoration of democracy in Lebanon.  Some people believe that the chances for electing a president have been improved as a result of the municipal elections.  I’m not about to predict when that might be, but I do think that we see once again the value of elections and how they’ve rejuvenated the democratic spirit in the country.  I think politicians should rethink their approach so that they appeal to the electorate better, more successfully. And I think they should realize that time is not always on your side. So yalla go elect a president and do not postpone parliamentary elections again. Let’s never again have a postponement of parliamentary elections in Lebanon. I certainly hope there’s not another one before there’s another election.

Whether or not the president should be elected first or the parliament should be elected first is not of crucial importance to the United States. I don’t know if there is a legal argument to be made one way or the other. I know opinions differ on this, but I do think that the important thing is to continue the process of electing a president and then holding parliamentary elections because parliamentary elections are not scheduled until next spring.  I think we all agree that we don’t want to wait that long for a president.

These are the kind of issues that I discussed with the prime minister, and they remain near and dear to my heart.  Of course, I want to make it clear that this was a farewell call to the Prime Minister because Elizabeth Richard has been confirmed by the Senate on May 17th and she will be here to take over duties as soon as she finishes the administrative procedures she has to go through.

I will, of course, be leaving sometime towards the end of this week.  But I wanted to just take this opportunity to thank the Lebanese people for their hospitality, their graciousness in receiving me. This has been, as you know, my second mandate in Lebanon and it’s been a very fun ride for a little over seven months now, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. But all good things must come to an end, and I’m leaving with a bittersweet feeling in my heart. Bitter because I have to leave; my mandate is over and I didn’t accomplish all the things that I set out to do. But I’m pleased that I got some things accomplished and I hope that the Lebanese people feel that I made a difference.  But it’s sweet because I know I’m being replaced by a very able diplomat. I don’t think that President Obama could have nominated a more accomplished and professional foreign service officer to be your next ambassador to Lebanon.

I know that Ambassador Richard will continue the strong relationship between our countries, particularly with the security forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces.  The stability of Lebanon is something that’s very important to the United States. We seek to stabilize Lebanon by strengthening the legal institutions, not by trying to create some parallel structure.  I think the Lebanese Armed Forces and its security services in general are stronger than they’ve ever been. They are more professional than they’ve ever been. And I think they respect human rights more. And I think that’s largely the result of American training.

We know our equipment is valuable for Lebanon.  I was out at the airbase this morning where we received a shipment of mapping equipment from the United States. It was such an amount of equipment we needed two C-17s to ship it to Lebanon. This equipment will make a difference in Lebanon’s fight against the terrorists in Bekaa Valley and in Lebanon’s ability to secure its borders.  So I leave with some satisfaction that I have been a steward of growing strength in a relationship that is benefitting your country.

Thank you very much for hosting me as Ambassador and I look forward to returning one day as a private citizen.