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Rome, 15 March 2018
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Lebanon's resilience is a daily miracle in today's Middle Eastern chaos.
The Lebanese people have shown incredible resilience in the face of the Syrian war next door.
The Lebanese leaders have reacted with unity to the political crisis unfolding at the end of last year.
And the Lebanese Armed Forces have not only guarded Lebanon's stability, security and sovereignty in difficult times, they have also represented a symbol of national unity.
This Rome II Conference today is part of a coherent, comprehensive international work. I remember when I chaired the first conference to support the Lebanese Armed Forces, here, in this very same room, in 2014.
This year, this is the first of three events where the international community renews its support to Lebanon, its institutions, and its resilience. Together with CEDRE in Paris and the second Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region, it is a demonstration of our common commitment to this incredible country that is Lebanon.
We, the European Union, have always been on the side of Lebanon and the Lebanese security forces. Since 2006, the EU has invested more than 85 million euros across the entire security sector.
Our Member States are contributing to UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) with thousands of troops – and let me thank in particular Italy for their commitment and for hosting today's conference.
We now want to support the deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces to the South of Lebanon, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1701. The European Union is ready to work with the rest of the international community, and with the Lebanese institutions, towards the full implementation of the Resolution. In particular, we very much support the deployment of a Lebanese “model regiment” in the area, as a step towards a stronger and more stable Lebanon.
Today we commit an additional 50 million euros to support Lebanon's security until 2020.
Most of this investment will finance actions to promote the rule of law, enhance security and counter terrorism. In 2018, there should be a specific focus on Integrated Border Management and countering terrorism.
The Lebanese Armed Forces and other security forces are now working to consolidate their presence at the border with Syria, and to capitalise on their success from last summer in the region around Arsal. This is an important work to further extend the authority of the Lebanese State and ensure tight control over the border.
Let me add here how important it is to implement the disassociation policy agreed at the end of last year by the Lebanese political forces. As Prime Minister [Saad] Hariri rightly said in his opening speech here today. The war in Syria is not over yet, and we must avoid that it destabilises the region even further.
Finally, 3.5 million euros from the EU contribution will serve to provide additional support to security at the Rafic Hariri International Airport of Beirut. We will finance both the training of civilian security guards at the airport, and an upgrade of security equipment and infrastructure. We all know how vital airport security has become in today's world. This is a contribution to the security of Lebanon, but also to our collective security.
A strong, secure and resilient Lebanon is our collective interest. Lebanon means more to the world than its size would suggest. It is a mirror of the whole Middle East, of its diversity, complexity and beauty. And it can represent the hope of an entire region.