POLICY Statement

February 16, 2018: American Task Force for Lebanon Welcomes Secretary of State Tillerson’s Support for Lebanon and Call for Diplomacy to Settle Border Dispute

February 16, 2018

Washington, D.C., February 16, 2018 (ATFL) – During his stopover in Lebanon yesterday on a five-country trip to the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reassured Lebanon of U.S. support for its independence and called on Israel and Lebanon to engage in diplomacy to settle their ongoing border dispute. The two countries have been engaged in an exchange of charges regarding Israel’s recent project to build a wall on its northern border with Lebanon. This has implications for their shared maritime boundary, which demarcates offshore areas with highly probable gas and oil resources. Both countries claim overlapping areas.

At his press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Secretary Tillerson said, "We've asked no one to give up anything. Rather, we're looking for a solution. Let's get the border agreed first and then people can think about if they need a security wall or not at that point." Mr. Hariri said that Lebanon will uphold its position on the border issues. "What is ours is ours and what is Israel's is Israel's. We are trying to find solutions that will be fair to us and fair to everyone."

In his meeting with Lebanese President Aoun, Secretary Tillerson raised concerns that Hezbollah’s military activities in several countries were undermining stability in the region and would result in negative consequences for Lebanon. Regarding recent U.S. legislation targeting Hezbollah’s financial network, President Aoun noted that some of these sanctions have hurt Lebanon’s economy and thrown off potential investors. He also noted that the U.S. reduction in aid to UNRWA from $264 million to $60 million will gravely affect Lebanon’s ability to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis.

In his note in the visitors’ book, Secretary Tillerson said that the U.S. will "stand with the Lebanese people for a free and democratic Lebanon,” and confirmed America’s “continued support for the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces.”

Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel, President of the American Task Force for Lebanon, a leadership group of Lebanese-Americans who support strong U.S.-Lebanon ties noted, “We welcome Secretary Tillerson’s support” and said, “Without a comprehensive strategy for the region that commits the U.S. to proactive policies that support our interests and our allies, the U.S. risks its larger role of global leadership, a goal that can’t be attained without thoughtful and credible engagement.”

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