US cannot offer solutions to Lebanon’s domestic issues, says envoy

BEIRUT: The US cannot offer resolutions to Lebanon’s domestic issues, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon said Thursday at the beginning of an official visit to Lebanon.

“We cannot provide solutions to internal issues, such as the presidential vacancy. Those must come from Lebanon’s institutions and people. But, rest assured, as Lebanon continues to devise these solutions and chart its future course, America will continue to support you every step of the way,” Shannon said during a news conference following a meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

Lebanon has been without a head of state since the end of former President Michel Sleiman’s term in 2014.

Shannon’s meeting with Bassil comes within a two-day visit to Lebanon during which he will meet with leaders of the country’s national and municipal institutions as well as engage directly with the Lebanese people.

The US diplomat discussed with Bassil the different bilateral and regional issues plaguing Lebanon, such as the threat from terrorism and the challenges of welcoming over a million Syrian refugees, along with other issues.

The UNHCR says around 1.1 million registered Syrian refugees reside in Lebanon. The Lebanese government, however, estimates the total number of Syrian refugees at over 1.5 million.

Shannon thanked the Lebanese people for their hospitality and promised to provide Lebanon with the necessary support to overcome the different challenges it’s facing, saying “In all my conversations, my message will be clear – the United States will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Lebanon.