POLICY Statement

September 27, 2018: American Task Force for Lebanon Meets with Lebanese President and Acting Foreign Minister

September 27, 2018

Washington, DC, September 27, 2018 (ATFL) – Following up on a visit with President Michel Aoun in June, Board Members of the American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL), including ATFL President Ambassador Edward Gabriel (ret.) and Executive Director Leslie Touma, met in New York City where the Lebanese delegation is attending the start of the UN General Assembly annual meetings.

President Aoun was joined in the meeting by acting Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Lebanon’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, HE Dr. Amal Mudallali, HE Gabriel Issa, Lebanon’s Ambassador to the United States, and Mireille Aoun Hachem, Advisor to the President.

The discussion included concerns regarding the health of the Lebanese economy, modalities for Syrian refugee repatriation, Russian attempts to build stronger military ties with Lebanon, the importance of US military and foreign assistance, and the need for stronger US leadership in the region.

President Aoun expressed his concern that there are some analysts who confuse politics and the economy, without clearly understanding how regional issues, such as the strain of supporting so many refugees, impact the country’s budget, economy, and social welfare. Acting Minister Bassil noted that the elimination of US foreign assistance to the UNWRA for its work supporting Palestinian refugees is an additional strain on Lebanon and destabilizing the region.

Both officials mentioned that Lebanon is ready to work with the United States and the UN to develop modalities for enabling the Syrian refugees to return home in a safe and voluntary process. President Aoun will reiterate these points in his address to the General Assembly.

Ambassador Gabriel expressed ATFL’s commitment to continuing to work on behalf of good relations between the US and Lebanon, including educating American policy makers on the regional challenges affecting the economic, political, and social situation in Lebanon, as well as working with the Lebanese government to encourage policies that strengthen the Lebanese economy and promote investments in the country.

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