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Minister Shatter Meets with the Lebanese Minister for Defence at the Start of his Visit to the Middle East

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, today met with Fayez Ghosen, the Lebanese Minister for Defence on the first day of his official visit to the Middle East. This is the second time that the two Ministers met as Minister Shatter’s trip to the Middle East in March of this year provided the opportunity for their first meeting. At the outset Minister Shatter offered his condolences to the people of Lebanon for the loss of life suffered in the terrorist bomb attack in Beirut on the 19th of November.

The Ministers discussed the important role of UNIFIL in South Lebanon and its contribution to the cause of maintaining peace, security and stability in the region. Minister Ghosen spoke of the major security concerns and implications for Lebanon of the continuing conflict in Syria and the extent to which it could cause further instability in Lebanon and the wider region. He expressed his gratitude for the Irish contribution to UNIFIL and mentioned, in particular, the warm relationship between the Irish troops and the local Lebanese community.

The discussions also focused on the appalling toll of the crisis in Syria in which 120,000 people have lost their lives and some 7 million people have been displaced. Minister Ghosen highlighted the enormous burden placed on the Lebanese Government and people by 815,000 Syrian refugees crossing the border into Lebanon. He stressed that particular problems had arisen in health, education and security and also highlighted the importance of support and financial assistance from the International community. The Ministers also discussed the consideration by the EU of support to the Lebanese Armed Forces in the areas of equipment and training.

Speaking after the meeting, Minister Shatter said “It is clear that there will be a need for a continuing EU and UN engagement in the region and in Lebanon. In the context of the ongoing conflict in Syria and the refugee crisis in the region, it is of vital importance that the Syrian regime takes immediate steps to facilitate the expansion of humanitarian relief operations in Syria”.

Minister Shatter added that “The refugee crisis arising from the Syrian tragedy is a permanent item on the agenda of both the EU Foreign, and Justice and Home Affairs Councils. I will update my EU Ministerial colleagues at the forthcoming Justice & Home Affairs Council meeting on the 5th and 6th of December on the enormous difficulties facing Lebanon and of the importance of providing every assistance possible in addressing the refugee crisis”.

To date the EU is the largest donor in the region with total aid contribution now reaching €1.9 billion. In the context of the ongoing crisis it is clear that continuing assistance and support will be required from the EU.

Please click on the links below for photographic and video links to today’s meetings (photos have also been sent to your picture desks):

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