Kaag Meets Hariri, Hails ‘New Chapter’ in Lebanon’s History

Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks Thursday at the Grand Serail with the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag, and the Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Philippe Lazzarini.

The U.N. has been “in Lebanon for more than 71 years, our presence is strong as well as our commitment to Lebanon’s people and we need to work even more closely with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the new government to advance Lebanon’s stability and security and the prosperity of all those who reside on Lebanon’s soil,” Kaag said after the meeting.

“We explored ideas around the possible meeting of the International Support Group. The United Nations looks forward to the timely conduct of the parliamentary elections next year for which we continue to provide support and assistance,” the U.N. official added.

She described the election of President Michel Aoun as well as the formation of the new government as “a new chapter” in the history of Lebanon.

“We can all look forward with confidence to the future of Lebanon and seize all the opportunities that the country has and that the government should grasp and seize for the benefit of the people, stability and security,” Kaag went on to say.

Lebanon formed a new 30-minister government on Sunday, bringing together the entire political spectrum except for the Kataeb Party that refused to be represented by a state minister post.

New portfolios include an anti-corruption post and, for the first time, a minister of state for women’s affairs.

The new government will have “preserving security against the fires ravaging our region at the top of its list of priorities,” Hariri said on Sunday.

He stressed that the government would act to “preserve our country from the negative consequences of the Syrian crisis.”

Hariri was nominated to form the new government on November 3.

His appointment as PM and Aoun’s election after two and a half years of presidential vacuum have raised hopes that Lebanon can begin tackling challenges including a stagnant economy, a moribund political class and the influx of more than a million Syrian refugees.

Hariri also announced the establishment of a state secretariat for refugees, and called on the international community “to take responsibility for helping our country bear the burden.”

“The government will also work on the preparation of a new electoral law,” Hariri said on Sunday.