BEIRUT, Jan 22, (KUNA): Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the stances of His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah since he was foreign minister have made Kuwait very close to Lebanon and other friendly countries.
The State of Kuwait under His Highness the Amir is held in great esteem by the Lebanese and all Arab peoples, President Aoun said in an interview with KUNA ahead of his first visit to Kuwait as president. “My visit to Kuwait is to convey a genuine desire on the part of the Lebanese people for openness and cooperation with all active players in the region on the principles of mutual respect for the sovereignty, independence and privacy of each other.
“I will carry a message of love and respect,” he pointed out. President Aoun noted that Lebanon has never adopted a hostile policy towards any countries in the Middle East region. “To the contrary, Lebanon was antagonized and victimized repeatedly by aggressors, but struggled relentlessly to defend its own values and distinctive role in the region,” he said, apparently alluding to Israel.
The State of Kuwait understands, more than any other country in the region, the situation in Lebanon because it (Kuwait) underwent a similar bitter experience in 1990, he said, referring to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. “His Highness the Amir, then the foreign minister, played a key role in Kuwait liberation and restoring the country’s active and essential role in the region,” President Aoun recalled.
On the bilateral ties, he said both countries maintained firm and deep-rooted historical relationship and share the desire to open new horizons for cooperation in all areas. “The state-to-state and people-to-people friendship creates proper ground for the two countries to restore the unity and solidarity of the Arab nation in the face of mounting challenges. “To do so requires building a political consensus on how to address the current problems through open and candid dialogue because risks face all of us,” he stressed, citing the efforts of His Highness the Amir to bring the views of Arab leaders close to each other.
President Aoun expressed desire to work with Kuwait for preventing hostile forces from taking advantage from the current disputes among some Arab countries in order to undermine the Palestine question, which is the Arabs’ central cause. He denounced the Israeli designs to Judaize Jerusalem and blur its Arab identity, and deprive the Palestinians of the right to statehood and the refugees of the right to return to their homes.
Dealing with the tourist sector that suffered problems late last year due to security concerns, President Aoun said his country doubled efforts to restore its position as a main destination for tourists from the Gulf region, particularly from Kuwait.
“The security of tourists is an integral part of the security of Lebanon. There is no justification for Arab brothers to panic into staying away from Lebanon. “The situation in Lebanon is stable and calm thanks to the vigilance of the security services and the strong will of the people for stability,” he said, citing recent reports of field studies. Regarding the new oil and natural gas discoveries in Lebanon, President Aoun welcomed cooperation with Kuwaiti energy producers that have long experience in this sector. “It sounded far-fetched for Lebanon to join the oil club but the dream came true,” he said, noting that many energy companies from around the world have offered bids to explore for and exploit the energy resources in Lebanon.
He added that Lebanon is preparing to launch a plan to turn its economy from consuming into productive. The plan is well set through taking the advice of experienced international companies, fighting corruption and developing infrastructure. As for the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, President Aoun said that more than 1.8 million refugees added more strains on the already fragile economy of Lebanon besides the security burdens. “Many donor countries failed to honor their aid pledges and humanitarian undertakings towards Lebanon. This is why we are lobbying for the return of the refugees to safe havens inside Syria,” he regretted.
“In this connection, Lebanon pins high hopes on Kuwait which proved to be a reliable friend of Lebanon at numerous regional and international forums,” President Aoun went on. “The State of Kuwait, mindful of the developments of the situations in Lebanon and the region, can play an essential role in international conferences, we are preparing for, in support of Lebanon,” he stated. President Aoun added that Lebanon’s policy to keep its distance from turmoil in neighboring countries gained global praise.