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Aoun’s speech addressing the diplomatic corps at Baabda Palace

The following is President of the Republic, General Micheal Aoun's speech addressing the diplomatic corps at Baabda Palace.

Your Excellency Monsignor Joseph Spiteri,

Apostolic Nuncio and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,

Your Excellencies the representatives of the diplomatic missions accredited in Lebanon,

I cherish this occasion which brings us together at the onset of every year, as per a long-standing tradition, to exchange greetings for the New Year and explore the horizons of the days to come, along with the accompanying challenges and elements of hope.

As I thank your Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio, for your kind words and for the wishes and feelings of affection and solidarity conveyed, in the name of the accredited diplomatic corps, to me personally and to the people of Lebanon, I hope that the New Year brings along peace and wellbeing to you and to your respective States, leaders and peoples.

In this context, I would like to quote the valuable message of His Holiness Pope Francis on World Peace Day. It is remarkable that the Holy Father considers that peace is a journey of hope, a common hope among peoples, in the face of wars, persecution and injustice; indeed, hope is at the core of our faith, as we lie in the dust, looking forward to resurrection! If peace is the hope of peoples, this means that it is the very essence of their life. I wish that those who hold the reins of world peace look up to this truth upon making decisions that may threaten peace and stability in various spots of our world.

If, as stated by His Holiness, the world does not need empty words but rather peacemakers who are open to dialogue, then Pope Francis is undoubtedly the first and bravest among those needed peacemakers, one who is highly appreciated and deeply loved by all the Lebanese.

Your Excellencies,

Many factors converged, some external and others internal, to generate the worst economic, financial and social crisis that has ever hit Lebanon.

Externally, the world economic crises had a negative repercussion on our economy, in addition to the wars of the neighborhood, which have besieged Lebanon and barred it and still do from its vital extension and export markets, significantly affecting its commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors. They also gave way to the heaviest crisis on its already weary economy, I mean the displacement crisis which has brought in as many displaced as half of its original population. And to put the cherry on the cake, the financial embargo restricted the money flow from the outside, causing great harm to the Lebanese economy and financial market.

Internally, Lebanon is paying the price of an accumulation of thirty years of wrong economic and financial policies that depended on rentier economy and indebtedness, to the detriment of production, especially in industry and agriculture, in addition to decades-long corruption and waste in the administration.

Since the beginning of this presidential term, the economic and financial situation has been THE major concern. Indeed, the adoption of the oil and gas extraction decrees was placed on the agenda of the first governmental session, a comprehensive national plan was devised and infrastructure modernization projects were adopted, to be funded by the donors of the CEDRE conference. Nevertheless, the plans remained unexecuted.

From a financial perspective, I have strongly strived to bring the public finance back under the umbrella of the Constitution and the Public accounting law. In fact, three budgets were adopted after 12 years of interruption and random unconstitutional spending.

Yes, I have exerted tremendous efforts in quest of economic solutions. Yet, these endeavors did not produce the desired results because the situation was bad and the obstacles numerous. The growing economic pressure has driven people to the streets, upholding rightful living hood demands and brandishing one request common to all the Lebanese, namely fighting corruption.

The demonstrations presented, especially at their onset, a real opportunity to achieve the desired reform, because they have shaken the confessional and political protectorates and crossed the red lines, making accountability possible, giving strong momentum to Justice which has taken many actions, and enabling the former government to adopt a paper of reforms that would have been otherwise impossible.

Yet, the attempts by some political forces to harness the popular movements dispersed some of them, drowning them into a radicalism of rejection, and jeopardizing their unanimity about the claimed change. Moreover, the rumors spread by some media and some demonstrators derailed the movement, preventing it from correctly identifying real corruption and its perpetrators. I am still relying on the good Lebanese, on the streets and in their homes, to persevere in the fight against.

In turn, the Army and the security forces have addressed this popular movement with great wisdom. Indeed, they have strived to ensure the security and safety of the demonstrators, safeguarding their freedom of speech, while preserving at the same time the freedom of the citizens and their right to move and go to work and home.

Nevertheless, this situation has aggravated the economic crisis and has had a negative impact on the security situation whereas it has led to an increase in the rate of crime of all kinds after we had achieved remarkable progress in bringing it down over the past two years.

The government was expected to see the light last week, but some obstacles have prevented it; and although we do not have the luxury of delay, the formation of this government requires the selection of qualified candidates, worthy of the confidence of both the people and the Parliament, which in turn requires time; what is needed is a government with a specific and swift program for tackling the pressing economic and financial crisis, and countering the tremendous challenges that Lebanon and the whole region are facing. We shall continue to exert all the possible efforts to form the promised government, advancing the higher national interest above any other consideration.

Your Excellencies,

In addition to all the present difficulties, the crisis of the displaced still weighs heavily at all levels, while the international community has not shouldered its responsibility effectively, neither favoring the return, nor supporting Lebanon to mitigate the impact of this displacement; except for some assistance dedicated to the displaced - from which Lebanon only received a small part - coupled with praise for the humanitarian role it is playing, along with political rhetoric about linking their return to the political solution.

We have shown understanding about the causes of displacement and we have extended all the possible cooperation and assistance throughout the years, but today we do not understand the positions pressing to hinder the return, and we have every right to draw a big question mark about this international indifference, especially that I have carried this crisis with me to all the international and Arab fora, explaining its entailed burdens and repercussions for Lebanon.

Amidst this pressing atmosphere, some positive indicators are expected in the near future, when Lebanon embarks on the exploration of its offshore natural resources in its territorial waters. In this context, we reiterate that we hold on to our right to exploit all our oil fields and reject any Israeli attempt to aggress them, as we underscore the necessity to confirm the land borders and delineate the maritime borders, in view of the benefit this has for stability and calm, and in view of safeguarding the rights of Lebanon and the required investment climate.

Your Excellencies,

Although the year 2019 has been wrapped up with a huge crisis, it has been scattered with some international milestones which are significant for Lebanon, on top of which the consecration of our nation as a space for encounter and dialogue among civilizations, religions and cultures, through the vote by the UN General

Assembly on the creation on our land of the Academy for Human Encounters and Dialogue.

With the upheaval that surrounds us, it is becoming all the more certain that openness, dialogue and getting to know the other are the foundations for building peace and stability and facing the ideas of extremism, isolation and seclusion.

Moreover, Lebanon has been selected to host the regional headquarters of the International Organization of the Francophonie in the Middle East, in a confirmation of our country's role in its environment and the world. We hope that this office will be officially inaugurated and will launch its activities in Beirut during this year, in coordination with the Organization.

Your Excellencies,

Lebanon has the destiny and the vocation to be a land of peace, dialogue and tolerance. Therefore, it has been imperative to preserve stability and coexistence therein This is why we hold on to Resolution 1701, to international resolutions and to the international legitimacy based on justice, we are keen on recovering our rights and land and preventing settlement in Lebanon, and we are attached to the principle of disassociating Lebanon from the problems of the region, keeping it away from its axes and flames without relinquishing its power and right of resistance, and devising a defense strategy that would promote this opportunity based on mutual understanding among all the Lebanese.

This year, Lebanon celebrates the first centenary of the proclamation of the State of Greater Lebanon. I am confident that this centennial commemoration will constitute a suitable opportunity, despite all the factors of concern and the lack of visibility, to rediscover the role and position of Lebanon, and even more: a favorable opportunity to renew the commitment of all the Lebanese to the challenge of building a country that is worthy of human dignity, and that lives up to its God-given blessing of being a Message, a message that is fulfilled through reflection, action and the will of the sons and daughters of this nation

Happy New Year

And Long Live Lebanon.

Source: National News Agency

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