NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, said that “The current Lebanese crisis has three faces, all of which have left catastrophic repercussions on the reality in our country: the crisis of the presence of heavily displaced Syrians on its soil with its devastating effects on our economy, the crisis of difficult economic conditions that the Government is working hard to confront, and a pandemic Corona crisis, which in recent months has burdened the already deteriorating economic situation”.
“We took a decision to help ourselves, with the expectation of obtaining parallel international support that would support us to get out of the current tunnel. We have gone through a long era of wrong economic policies, which are accompanied by corruption at the level of authority, administrative slack and the loss of confidence of the Lebanese citizen in the country. The current Government, constituting of non-politicized professionals, has announced an economic program to lift Lebanon out of its collapse” President Aoun stressed.
The President also asserted that “ we are fully aware that the beginning of advancement of Lebanon needs the support of its brothers and friends, and Russia, as a great country and a historical friend of Lebanon, can participate in many steps to support the revival plan approved by the Cabinet and we will work to implement it, whether through easy and long term deposits or loans that can be granted to us. The channels of communication are continuously open between Lebanon and Russia, and Russian officials are fully aware of Lebanon’s problems and needs, and I am confident that they will soon take the appropriate decision in the matter of assisting Lebanon”.
President Aoun also indicated that “We need rapid action and immediate support, because the ability of the Lebanese people to withstand has diminished considerably, with the spread of unemployment, the aggravation of the financial crisis, and the deterioration of the national currency exchange rate”.
President Aoun’s stances came through an interview with the Russian agency “Sputnik”, which was widely circulated, in which he tackled the Lebanese situation, in addition to the Lebanese-Russian relations.
Fighting Corona Virus:
The President was asked about Russia’s standing with Lebanon in the face of the Corona pandemic, and he said: “We are of course open to any possible assistance in our battle against the Corona, especially in strengthening our stock of PCR exams, so that we can conduct the largest possible number of random checks. Ourconfrontation with this global epidemic has been successful until now, and we hope to continue controlling its spread, leading to its elimination, thanks to the great efforts and scientific plan adopted by the Government, which was appreciated by the World Health Organization. We are in this confrontation, which we don’t know exactly how long it will take, we’re on the go.There was also international health and financial support due to the catastrophic effects of the epidemic on the production and labor sectors in Lebanon. We hope that our voice will reach the friendly Russia”.
President Aoun was asked about the Russian-Lebanese cooperation in dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis, and he said: “We are in contact with Russia on this file, especially after the initiative that I put forward to facilitate the return of the displaced to their countries. Unfortunately, this initiative collided with international obstacles that prevented its achievement, As a result, Lebanon’s situation has been exacerbated by this. Finally leads to catastrophic results on the Lebanese state, like the Palestinians waiting for a political solution to their cause for more than 72 years”.
Concerning the information that was reported months ago about his willingness to visit Syria to solve the refugee crisis, and is the matter still open, President Aoun replied: “We have a conviction, that the return of the displaced to their country is linked to a major international decision, and is not dependent on a visit that I may make to Syria. The international community is maliciously dealing with this issue. They want to keep the bomb of the displaced in the countries neighboring Syria, even if this leads to a social, security, and economic explosion in a country like Lebanon, and they do not want to share the burden of displacement with these countries, despite the huge potential that many European countries andthe United States enjoy”.
The President was asked whether the international community had fulfilled its obligations towards Lebanon regarding this issue, where he replied: “Years ago, we repeated our position more than once. The cost of the Syrian exodus to Lebanon exceeds our country’s ability to bear. The international community has deafened its ears. And they did not care about the collapse that could affect our country, rather they werepressuring us, and still are, to bear greater burdens than our endurance. We recently reached an economic and financial crisis unprecedented in our history, and one of its main reasons is Lebanon’s incurring, according to fund figures International monetary, about 30 billion dollars as a result of the presence of more than a million and a half million Syrian refugees on Lebanese soil. Of course, the Lebanese crisis was exacerbated by the spread of the Corona epidemic, and the Government has now to adopt financial plans to help those who have lost their jobs, as a result of the epidemic on the one hand, and the Syrian labor force in Lebanon, on the other hand. If the international community had fulfilled its obligations towards us, we would not have reached this terrible deterioration”.
International Support Group:
The President was asked about his assessment of the work of the “International Support Group for Lebanon” under the current circumstances, and he answered: “I called the International Support Group to a meeting in the Presidential Palace on April 6, and I called on them to support the reform plan set by the Government, because this plan needs support from friendly and brotherly countries and the support group to implement them. The countries of the group will discuss the plan approved by the Cabinet to evaluate and take appropriate decisions, and I hope these countries will fulfill their obligations towards us”.
Future of the Lebanese Economy:
President Aoun tackled the future of the Lebanese economy after Lebanon announced a moratorium on its debt repayment, and the obstacles that accompany the approval of the rescue plan, where he explained that “The plan took time, which is natural because we are talking about 30-year-old accumulations that have brought the Lebanese economy and public finances into the abyss. To be frank, there are political parties that are not interested in saving the situation, but scoring political points, and therefore they will veto the plan as soon as it is announced, and this is abusive, because unity and solidarity today are required more than ever, and everyone must realize that we are in one ship, and people have reached the height of the explosion. Any social explosion will fragment all political forces, and threaten stability in Lebanon. But in the end, I want to be clear and unequivocal on a fundamental issue, which is that the Government is resolutely determined to implement the plan it has put in place, regardless of obstacles and difficulties. As a result, we hope that Lebanon will begin the recovery process”.
The President was then asked whether Lebanon had wagered on oil and gas to save its economy and was still in place, where he considered that “Oil and gas are among Lebanese wealth that wasrecently discovered, and we have the right to benefit from, but it is not true that we are betting on our oil wealth to save the economy. Saving the economy must take place today before tomorrow. As for our oil wealth, it needs years to bear fruit. With regard to the historical decline of the oil markets, this is a phased matter linked to the decrease in consumption of oil derivatives due to the spread of the Corona pandemic, and the markets will return to recovery over time, and therefore there is no relationship between our oil wealth For the future, with what is happening now”.
President Aoun was also asked about the realistic way to combat corruption in Lebanon, where he asserted that “The first and essential step is to give the judiciary a hand in pursuing all corruption files, and to hold accountable those responsible, whatever their affair. That interference in the work of the judiciary by the people of authority in Lebanon was the main dilemma that led to the escaping of accountability, and consequently the plundering of people’s money. We need courageous judges who face matters, and satisfy the people’s desires to hold accountable and recover the looted funds. Consequently, our primary goal is to work to free the judiciary from political pressure, so that it can fulfill its responsibilities in prosecuting the perpetrators and corrupt individuals who belong to the influential class in political life. We have already started pursuing them after they looted the people’s money and the state. I can confirm that the results are beginning to appear”.
Qualified for Succession:
In response to a question about talking about presidential election battles that started early, who is eligible for your succession, and how do you evaluate Minister Gebran Bassil’s chances to be the next Lebanese President, President Aoun replied: “Lebanese democracy means that the President of the Republic is elected in the Parliament, and therefore this is a decision made by MPs. The electoral battles that you mentioned are just battles that some politicians have launched with the help of the media to sow ash in the eyes. As for Minister Bassil, he is a politician and official, and he has long experience in political work, and his opportunity to reach the presidency related to the choice of MPs, they will choose who enjoys the qualifications and flexibility of this post”.
New Wave of Protests:
In response to a question about whether Lebanon will witness a new wave of protests and how it will be dealt with, President Aoun expressed his hope that “All officials and political parties in Lebanon have understood well that the Lebanese have understood well that the Lebanese have exploded in the face of corruption, loss of job opportunities, and looting of state funds for many years. I understand that people want quick and tangible changes, but that the repercussions of the past 30 years will not be addressed overnight. I have called them in the past to maintain their vigilance in monitoring the course of things, and here I invite them again. But we cannot ask a Government that is less than 100 days old to propose miracles. I fear that the street curse will be exploited by some parties that are upset about the Government’s serious performance, to explode the protests. In any case, we will not allow the security situation to fade, while preserving the freedom to demonstrate and express”.--Presidency Press Office