(UPDATED) Ayrault visits Rahi in Bkerki

Maronite Patriarch, Beshara Rai, received on Tuesday in Bkirki French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, accompanied by French Ambassador to Lebanon, Emmanuel Bonne.

Rai thanked France for its concern about the Lebanese situation.

He also called upon the parliament to elect a President apart from regional conflicts or the recent developments in Syria, notably the Iranian Saudi conflict.

“I am pleased to welcome you at the Maronite Patriarchate. We are delighted to see you representing France during these delicate moments Lebanon and Middle East region are passing through nowadays,” he said in his speech.

“We appreciate the symbolic visit of French President Francois Hollande to Lebanon,” he added.

“You confirmed the commitment of your country towards unity, sovereignty, and stability. You contacted Iranian and Saudi officials to find a solution to the crisis,” Maronite Patriarch pointed out.

Rai urged Lebanese politicians not to give up their responsibilities. “They should be aware that we are facing regional interventions, linking the presidential elections to the ongoing conflict in Syria and the one between Iran and Saudi Arabia.”

The Patriarch stressed the need for a solution to the crisis of displaced Syrians and Palestinian refugees. “Lebanon must benefit from its buried treasure, which may be stolen, notably its natural gas wealth and oil.”

He also called upon the international community to end the wars in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and the region, and to work in favor of a just, comprehensive, and permanent peace. “Christians and Muslims must go back to their homeland.”

Ayrault, in turn, said that France respected its relations with Lebanese people and the Middle East region, noting that “the situation of Christians in the East is very hard. We have to make decisions in this context.”

He underscored, “Lebanon is a message and an example to follow because of the values of freedom, respect, and balance between all communities and components of the Lebanese society.

“I came to stretch out my hand to the Lebanese folk, namely in the presidential crisis. We must find a solution to the Lebanese crisis. We leave it to the Lebanese to choose carefully but our goal is to support them in order to facilitate their work.

“Lebanese people are going through a difficult situation in the shade of security threats and tragic consequences of the war in Syria and Syrian refugees fleeing to neighboring countries including Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. France provides, in cooperation with its international partners, efforts to find a solution to Lebanon.”

The French minister stressed the need for a cease-fire in Syria and the delivery of humanitarian aid to needy ones.

“The refugees want to go home. We are supposed to work on this issue. Lebanon must be protected. It is a reference and we must preserve its diversity,” he concluded.

Source: National News Agency

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