BEIRUT: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres started a four-day official visit to Lebanon on Sunday.
His visit was the result of an urgent invitation from Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati when they met at COP26 in Glasgow last month.
Guterres will chair a meeting with Mikati in the Grand Serail on Monday, at which the heads and representatives of various UN organizations and bodies are expected in Lebanon.
It is considered the most important meeting to date, with the aim of coordinating cooperation between them and assessing their ability to respond to Lebanon’s needs during difficult times.
Guterres said at the airport that the aim of the visit was to “assist” Lebanon and the Lebanese people.
âI believe this is the moment for all of us in the world to express the same solidarity with the Lebanese people. So if there is one word to characterize my visit, that word is solidarity, âhe said.
Guterres began his visit with a meeting with President Michel Aoun less than three hours after arriving in the capital.
At a joint press conference with Guterres on Sunday, Aoun emphasized the “deep partnership” between Lebanon and the United Nations.
The President again called on the international community “to take their responsibility and promote the safe return of Syrian refugees to their homes”.
Guterres praised “the generosity of the Lebanese in accepting Syrian refugees, and this came at a high price for the Lebanese economy and society”.
On the eve of his visit, the UN chief expressed concern about the Lebanese at the “torture” they were facing.
He said there was a unified message that “the United Nations stand by the Lebanese people and focus on supporting Lebanon and its people”.
The UN chief previously said he would discuss with the various people he met the best ways to overcome the crisis and promote peace, stability, justice, development and human rights.
He stressed that the search for permanent solutions could only come from Lebanon.
âIt is imperative that leaders put the people first and implement the reforms necessary to get Lebanon back on track, including efforts to improve accountability, transparency and eradication of corruption . The parliamentary elections scheduled for next year will be of the utmost importance. Therefore, the Lebanese people must be fully involved in the choice of the country’s further path. “
His visit includes a meeting with the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, a visit to the site of the explosion in the port of Beirut, and a meeting with religious leaders and representatives of civil society.
He will also visit Tripoli to witness cases of extreme poverty in the northern city and to meet with those affected by the country’s numerous crises.
He will conclude his trip with a visit to the UN interim force in Lebanon and a tour of the Blue Line.
The priority of the UN chief, as he said in his message to the Lebanese, is the parliamentary elections coming up next spring and the readiness of the UN to secure its financing and logistics needs.
His visit to UNIFIL will be his first as Secretary General and away from the media.
The regular reports of the United Nations, on the basis of which the mission of these armed forces in Lebanon is being extended, previously stressed the need to âguarantee the freedom of movement of UNIFIL troops in their area of ââoperation in order to carry out their missionsâ.
The UN reports have also highlighted the need for “full control of the Lebanese army and its stationing in the south” and “limitation of arms possession to the Lebanese state”.
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi used his Sunday sermon to urge officials and influential people to abandon their approach of “political vengeance, personal hatred and total disregard” towards citizens as “tools of war”.
âIsn’t it shameful that the cabinet meeting is becoming an Arab and international demand while it is a Lebanese constitutional duty that binds the government? How is an influential group preventing it from going on in the name of the Charter? âHe wanted to know.
He stressed the need to uncover the truth about the port explosion and to end the growing distrust of the judges’ work.
He defended Judge Tarek Bitar, whom Hezbollah had repeatedly criticized and asked to be removed from the investigation.
âWhy is the honest judge accused of corruption, politicization and discretion? Is the goal to destroy the work of the judiciary and turn society into an unsupervised jungle of crime? All immunities must be lifted so that the judiciary, which has made sufficient progress, can hear anyone the investigator believes to be involved, or any witness or defendant (who was involved in the explosion), regardless of their position, âadded the clergyman added.