Obama with Lebanon president Sleiman 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
NEW YORK – At a meeting with US President Barack Obama at the United Nations in New York, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said that Syria is 18 times the size of his country and that “safe zones” should be established to accommodate the millions of refugees burdening its neighbors.
Obama said that Lebanon has been “tremendously generous” throughout the refugee crisis, but that it’s proven to be a “very difficult time” for his country.
“I commend the president’s efforts in insisting that all parties in Lebanon refrain from engaging in the Syrian conflict,” he continued. “The United States strongly rejects Hezbollah’s deep involvement in the Syrian conflict, which at this point has displaced millions of people and threatens to destabilize the region.”
The meeting came after Obama announced in his UN speech a pledge of an additional $340 million to aid those suffering from the influx of Syrians fleeing civil war.
“The United States commends the government and people of Lebanon for hosting and supporting nearly 800,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the Assad regime’s brutal violence,” the State Department said in a statement.
“The United States is committed to supporting Lebanon’s efforts to provide protection and assistance to those who have fled Syria, in conjunction with UN agencies and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners.”
At the meeting, Obama announced a new $8.7 million aid package to Lebanon that would support its military, suffering from splintering with the growing influence of Hezbollah.
Obama said the US “strongly supports the role of the Lebanese armed forces in maintaining Lebanon’s stability, and today we’re announcing an additional $8.7 million that would provide needed equipment in support of the Lebanese armed forces in internal stability and border security missions.”
Suleiman said he was “pleased that there may be progress” on ridding Syria of its chemical arsenal, one of many topics of the meeting between the two leaders.