Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks Tuesday at the Grand Serail with the International Support Group for Lebanon, which included the ambassadors of the U.S., Russia, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, and the EU as well as the Chinese charge d’affaires the U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon, and the Arab League representative.
“Prime Minister Hariri informed the ambassadors about the serious reform overdue measures taken yesterday by the government, be it as a part of the draft 2020 budget to be adopted within the constitutional deadline, or outside the budget,” an English-language statement released by Hariri’s office quoted U.N. Special Coordinator Jan Kubis as saying after the meeting.
“Hariri reiterated that these and other envisaged measures are just first steps. He credited the consensus in government around them to the men and women that have in the past days protested for their national dignity, restoring national identity and putting it above the sectarian or confessional identity,” Kubis added.
He said Hariri reconfirmed that these measures are not meant to ask the protesters to “stop expressing anger” as that is “a decision that only they can take.”
“If early parliamentary elections are their demand, it is only their voice to decide,” the statement quoted Hariri as telling Kubis.
“He also confirmed that the government will not allow anyone to threaten the protesters and that the state has the duty to protect the peaceful expression of legitimate demands,” Kubis added.
He said the International Support Group expressed its support for the reform objectives that Hariri has outlined and the decisions endorsed by the cabinet, which are “in line with the aspirations of the Lebanese people.”
The ISG applauds “the democratic expression of the Lebanese people and their calls for just, social, responsible and acceptable deep reforms and changes that should substantially reduce corruption and waste (of public funds) and move away from sectarianism and should put government in full accountability and lead to sustainable development and stability. Their grievances must be addressed,” Kubis added, according to the statement issued by Hariri’s office.
“The ISG welcomes the largely responsible behavior of the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces that notably since Saturday have respected people’s right to peaceful protest,” the U.N. official said.
“It takes note of Prime Minster Hariri’s commitment that the government and its legitimate security forces will continue providing protection to peaceful demonstrating civilians while taking appropriate action against possible instigators of violence, in protection of public and private property and institutions and right of people to peacefully express their opinion,” Kubis went on to say.
He said the ISG urges the leaders and political actors of Lebanon to “listen to the legitimate demands of the people, to work with them on solutions and their implementation and to refrain from rhetoric and actions that could inflame tensions and incite confrontation and violence.”
“The ISG reiterates its strong support for Lebanon and its people, for its territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence,” Kubis added.
Hariri had earlier met with the French Ambassador Bruno Foucher, the Russian Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin and the Ambassador of the United Kingdom Chris Rampling.
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