Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s talks with his counterpart Gebran Bassil focused on the situation in Lebanon in the light of the war in Syria and the large number of Syrian refugees.
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has only been in office since February 2014. The meeting with his German opposite number, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, this morning was also his first official visit to the German capital. However, it was not the first meeting between the two Foreign Ministers. They first met at the conference of the International Support Group for Lebanon in Paris on 5 March.
Today’s talks in the Federal Foreign Office followed on from the meeting in March: the talks focused on the situation in Lebanon. This is marked by domestic challenges – a successor for the office of president has to be elected by the end of May – as well as the crisis in neighbouring Syria.
Lebanon: Chance for political stability
After their talks, Steinmeier and Bassil gave a joint press conference. Foreign Minister Steinmeier expressed his recognition to his Lebanese counterpart for the successful efforts to form a government of national unity. He stated that the country had thus managed to avoid being drawn into the Syria crisis and to gain a chance for greater political stability.
The Syria conflict played a prominent role in the talks between the two Foreign Ministers. As Syria’s neighbour, Lebanon is directly affected by the bloody crisis, which has been going on for more than three years now. Foreign Minister Bassil reaffirmed Lebanon’s greatest problem was the large number of Syrian refugees.
Germany is helping to provide for Syrian refugees
Foreign Minister Steinmeier expressed his understanding for the pressure which the large number of refugees placed on Lebanon. The United Nations estimates that the country, which has only four million inhabitants, has taken in one million refugees. He also stressed that Germany intended to continue helping Lebanon to master these challenges. This included taking in Syrian refugees. Since 2012 the German Government has provided some 100 million euros in humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The German Foreign Minister concluded by emphasising that he wanted to continue his exchange with Gebran Bassil soon: he was already looking forward to the next talks during his first visit to Beirut on 30 May.