The President of the Republic General Michel Sleiman asserted that at a time when the Arab world still probes its way to reform and a democracy that is open to modernity and committed to freedoms and human rights away from the dangers of fragmentations, divisions and violence, so we hope, there remains an urgent need to find a just and comprehensive solution to all aspects of the conflict in the Middle East
The President stressed that such a solution requires a political decision and an actual international determination to ensure the pressing elements that would incite all parties to commit, within set timeframes, to the principles and pillars of the solution which have all been established in the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy.
The President noted that Lebanon had expressed its support for Australia’s bid to be elected to a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council for the period 2013-2014, and it is confident that Australia will stress on the importance of strengthening the democratic character of the United Nations and its credibility, and thus the importance of seeking to reform the Security Council working methods and to fairly implement its binding resolutions away from double standards.
President Sleiman commended Australia's support to Lebanon and the Lebanese, underlining human bonds and strong relations fostered by the two countries’ shared belief in the values of democracy and freedom, their strong commitment to human rights and to the resolutions of international legitimacy, and their firm rejection of injustice, extremism and terrorism.
For her part, Australia's Prime Minister Mrs. Julia Gillard underlined Lebanon’s prominent role and its long historic legacy, and lauded the role of the Lebanese, especially those of them who took high positions, some of whom are present at the luncheon.
Mrs. Gillard underscored the history of friendship, hope and cooperation between the two countries, stating that she looks forward to strengthening these relations to be as "high-standing" as the Cedars of Lebanon.
The statements of President Sleiman and Prime Minister Gillard were made during the official luncheon hosted by the latter in honor of the President of the Republic and the accompanying delegation today, following the bilateral talks held at the onset of the state visit of President Sleiman to Australia.
The bilateral talks
The President of the Republic had started his official visit to Canberra by meeting with the Prime Minister of Australia in her private office at the Parliament, where they held talks addressing the more-than-hundred-year old bilateral relations between Lebanon and Australia and means to stimulate them in various fields.
The Lebanese President and the Australian Prime Minister underscored the human bonds and strong relations between the Lebanese and Australian peoples, along with the need to lay the foundations for long-term relations at all levels, especially the economic, commercial and cultural cooperation between the two countries.
The talks also covered the essential contribution of Australians of Lebanese descent to all walks of the political, economic, social and cultural life in Australia.
Emphasis was placed on Lebanon's sovereignty, stability, unity, independence and integrity, and in particular, its support to the UNIFIL, and the need to implement UNSC resolution 1701 in full, while underlining the importance of Lebanon's support to the resolutions of the international legitimacy, including those related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
President Sleiman also thanked Australia for its support in landmines and cluster bombs clearing out and removal program in South Lebanon.
Both the Australian and Lebanese sides expressed their desire to promote cooperation in the defense and military areas, welcoming the creation of the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Melbourne, which will contribute, in association with the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Sydney, to the promotion of mutual investments and commercial exchange between the two countries.
With respect to the regional and international situation, the need to find a just and comprehensive solution to all aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict was underlined, in accordance with the resolutions of the international legitimacy, the reference of the Madrid conference, and the Arab peace initiative adopted by the Arab Summit in Beirut ten years ago. The two sides also hoped that the initiative of the joint UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan will succeed, and stability will be restored in Syria.
During the talks, a call to support the UNRWA in order to enable it to fulfill its tasks in providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian refugees was made, pending a just political solution to their cause, according to the resolutions of the international legitimacy, while Lebanon reiterated its rejection of any form of settlement.
The two sides condemned terrorism and concurred to promote bilateral and international cooperation to face this scourge which affects civilians. They underscored cooperation to promote dialogue as a means to solve conflicts and develop democracy, in the service of respect of pluralism and diversity in order to allow a greater space for the participation of all the components of the societies the management of their affairs.
Later on, President and Mrs. Sleiman toured the Parliament building with Prime Minister Gillard and visited its halls and rooms.
Following the meeting, the Lebanese President and the First Lady and the Australian Prime Minister headed to the dining room where they were received, prior to entering the room, by the representative of the opposition leader Tony Abbott, Senator Conceta Fierravanti Wells.
A luncheon was hosted in honor of the Lebanese President, First Lady and accompanying delegation at the "Parliament House" room, in the Australian Parliament.
The Australian Prime Minister raised a toast to the "President and people of Lebanon", while President Sleiman raised a toast to "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and to the people of Australia", as per the tradition of the Australian Protocol.
Before the end of the banquet, Prime Minister Gillard delivered a speech in which she said:
"I welcome you in our country, capital and Parliament, in this place of honor, I welcome you with honor and in this place that symbolizes friendship, we reaffirm the spirit of friendship that binds us together."
Mrs. Gillard expressed appreciation for the role of Lebanon and its long-standing historical legacy, and she commended Lebanon’s role at the international arena since its independence till today, i.e. for about 70 years. The Australian Prime Minister drew a link between Australia and Lebanon, noting that Australia is the land of traditions and diverse cultures, like Lebanon, praising the role of the Lebanese, especially those of them who hold high positions, some of whom are present at the luncheon.
In conclusion, Mrs. Gillard stated that "there is a history of friendship, hope and common cooperation between our two countries", saying that she looks forwards to "reinforcing the relations to be as high-standing as Lebanon's Cedar Trees".
Address by the representative of the opposition leader:
Later, the representative of the opposition leader Tony Abbott, Senator Conceta Fierravanti Wells, delivered a speech to welcome President Sleiman, the First Lady and the accompanying delegation:
"I join my voice to that of the Prime Minister to thank you for visiting Australia and to welcome you. We are proud of what the Australians of Lebanese descent have done and are doing and of their contribution to the development and economic growth of our country. We salute the commitment of the Lebanese living here to family values and their solid ties with their nation. Together, we are building one future, and I appreciate the great sacrifices they presented since their arrival to this land in order to reach the places where they stand today."
Mrs. Fierravanti Wells signalled that Australia is the object of deep appreciation in Lebanon, and reciprocally Lebanon is the object of a similar appreciation and affection in Australia.
Mrs. Fierravanti Wells went on: "We have great opportunities and hopes we have to activate together."
To conclude, the representative of the opposition leader saluted the President of the Republic for his major role in consolidating civil peace and reconciliation in Lebanon, considering that his election in 2008 was by itself an important milestone in the history of Lebanon.
Address by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Lebanon General Michel Sleiman at the luncheon held in his honor by the Prime Minister of Australia Mrs. Julia Gillard
Mrs. Prime Minister,
A feeling of pride fills my heart as I pay the first official visit of a Lebanese President of the Republic to your prominent country, which offers a unique occasion to discuss means to strengthen relations of cooperation and friendship between our two countries in various fields.
First, I would like to thank you for the kind words you addressed to me and for the warm welcome and generous hospitality you granted myself and the accompanying delegation.
Despite the geographical distance that separates our two countries, we have established human bonds and strong relations fostered by our shared belief in the values of democracy and freedom, our strong commitment to human rights and to the resolutions of international legitimacy, our firm rejection of injustice, extremism and terrorism, and the presence of a deep-rooted and active Lebanese community that has been well-established on this good generous land since the mid-nineteenth century.
Australia has constantly supported Lebanon's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, has always called for finding peaceful solutions to conflicts, and participated for a period of time in the international forces of the United Nations in Lebanon. Moreover, Australia did support the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which calls for the withdrawal of Israel from all remaining occupied Lebanese territories and provided commendable assistance to remove landmines and cluster bombs left behind by the Israeli aggression on a vast scale in southern Lebanon.
In addition to that, Australia has constantly supported the UNRWA which is entrusted with addressing the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian refugees pending a final just political solution to their cause based on their Right of Return.
While Australia contributes to numerous peacekeeping operations in many different areas of the world, it has been equally keen to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and to improve the economic, social, environmental, and health situation in developing countries in particular.
The Lebanese government had expressed its support for Australia’s bid to be elected to a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council for the period 2013-2014, and we are confident that Australia will stress on the importance of strengthening the democratic character of the United Nations and its credibility, and thus the importance of seeking to reform the Security Council working methods and to fairly implement its binding resolutions away from double standards.
It is a pleasure to realize that Lebanon’s contribution to addressing the problems submitted to the UN Security Council during the period of its membership in 2010-2011 has received Australia’s appreciation and that of friend countries.
At a time when the Arab world still probes its way to reform and a democracy that is open to modernity and committed to freedoms and human rights away from the dangers of fragmentations, divisions and violence, so we hope, there remains an urgent need to find a just and comprehensive solution to all aspects of the conflict in the Middle East which would serve international peace and security as well as the stability and well-being of our societies. Such a solution requires a political decision and an actual international determination to ensure the pressing elements that would incite all parties to commit, within set timeframes, to the principles and pillars of the solution which have all been established in the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy, Madrid’s Conference Terms of Reference adopted two decades ago, and the Arab Peace Initiative, the tenth anniversary of which coincided on the 28th of March, 2012 marking its adoption at the Beirut Summit.
Lebanon, which was able to maintain stability and avoid the repercussions of the global financial crisis over the past years looks forward to strengthening bilateral relations with Australia, including increasing its exports volume and the level of commercial exchange as well as encouraging and protecting mutual investments, while it is important to note that our partnership with the European Union facilitates such an exchange on the basis of quality standards. We hope that the Lebanese-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry which was established in Melbourne few weeks ago in addition to the Lebanese-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Sydney would assume a supporting role at this level.
We also look forward to broadening cooperation in the field of university exchanges and communication between youth associations and civil society organizations and to developing tourism between the two countries.
Mrs. Prime Minister,
Australia is considered as one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world and is characterized by being a country of freedom, human interaction, and tolerance, on the basis of diversity within unity and the obligation of national and social integration. It shares with Lebanon its keenness to promote dialogue among civilizations, religions and cultures.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, Australia received on its generous land successive waves of Lebanese expatriates who nowadays form an essential constituent of Australian society’s components and a source of pride for both of our countries.
Therefore, we hope that these special human relations would leverage advancing bilateral relations in line with our firm political desire to strengthen these relations and our common interests in various fields. We also hope that we move forward in building the legal frameworks and appropriate mechanisms to achieve this prominent goal.
Long Live Lebanon!
Long Live Australia!