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Official Visit to Paris - May 28, 2001

Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares described the talks he and the Lebanese delegation held in Paris, in the frame of the official visit undertaken by the Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, as very fruitful and successful, deeming that the President of the Lebanese Republic briefed the French officials about the uncomfortable situation and the tense juncture prevailing in the region, and that France showed great understanding and unconditional support to Lebanon.

Fares also pointed out at the warm welcome given to the Lebanese delegation and highlighted the deep amiability shown by the French officials to Lebanon and the Lebanese people.

Fares’ evaluation of the visit came on the heels of an official foreign trip to Paris with the Lebanese President on the head of delegation including, apart of Mr. Fares, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud, Jamil al-Sayyed, the Director-General of the General Security Directorate, Lebanon’s Ambassador to France Elysee Aalam, and the Director of the Political& Consular Affairs at the Foreign Ministry Ambassador Naji Abi Aasi.

The Lebanese delegation received a warm welcome by French Defense Minister Alain Richard, French Ambassador in Lebanon Philippe LeCourtier, the head of the Department of Val Pierre Marabout, and the Military Governor of Paris.

In Paris, a first meeting was held at the Elysees with French President Jacques Chirac. Discussions mainly revolved around the key role played by Europe in general, France in particular, in revitalizing the peace process. The Lebanese side mainly emphasized the fact that war will keep ongoing in the region until the recuperation by Lebanon of the Shebaa Farms and the release of the Lebanese prisoners from the Israeli prisons. Talks also tackled the solid ties between Lebanon and France and the historic bonds between the two countries.

The second day of the visit was launched by paying a visit to the Arch of Triumph from where President Lahoud, Fares, and the Lebanese delegation moved to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to lay a wreath.

President Lahoud, Mrs. Andre Lahoud, Fares, and the accompanying delegation were also the guests of honor of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe who had organized a reception at the Hotel De Ville attended by a large crowd of Lebanese emigrants and scores of high-level French personalities. Following the reception, Delanoe delivered a speech during which he expressed his confidence in Lebanon’s future, hailing the solid bonds between Lebanon and France which remote to more than a century.

The main event that marked the second day of the visit was a meeting with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin at Hotel Matignon during which emphasis was put on Lebanon’s support for a global, justice, and comprehensive peace in the region. The Lebanese side considered that the solution in the region lies in going back to the negotiation table and in the Israeli withdrawal from the Arab occupied lands, reiterating its call for Europe to play a new and catalyst role in reactivating the stalled peace process. For his part, Prime Minister Jospin stresses France support for Lebanon and its keenness to preserve the Lebanese interests.

Talks were resumed during a dinner banquet held by Premier Jospin in honor of the Lebanese delegation, during which discussion centered upon local and regional issues, among which figure the deployment of the Lebanese Army in South Lebanon. On a different level, Jospin applauded the ongoing preparations undertaken by the Lebanese Government for the holding of the Francophone Summit in Beirut.

Also on Fares’ schedule was a meeting held with the Arab Diplomatic Corps at the Lebanese President’s residence at Marini Palace. The meeting included Fares and the Lebanese delegation with the members of the Arab Diplomatic Corps accredited in Lebanon chaired by Egypt’s Ambassador Ali Maher, and in presence of the Arab League representative Ambassador Nasif Hitti.

The visit to Paris was concluded by holding a gathering held with the Lebanese community in a reception organized by Ambassador Aalam.