Check Against Delivery
We acknowledge the efforts the government of Prime Minister Diab has made so far in order to confront Lebanon's extremely dire economic and financial situation, which is exacerbated by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic and financial rescue plan that was presented at the end of last month includes important first steps in order to stabilize the situation. The upcoming discussion with the IMF will be crucial in order to agree on the necessary measures. Without serious reforms, the population's social agreement, this will become unbearable, resulting in continuing and escalating protests.
Now, while the economic and financial situation is the focus of attention – for good reasons, unfortunately – the government must nonetheless not lose sight of other pressing reforms, especially in the security sector. We understand the difficulty and the difficult budgetary situation, but strengthening the security forces and state institutions is a long-term investment in the stability of Lebanon. In this regard we also want to highlight the important role LAF has played in the past months, not least in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, we need to address the continued need to ensure protection of peaceful protests and to commit to transparent investigations regarding allegations of torture and incidents of violence. Now, the continuous presence of heavily armed militias and weapons outside the control of the government remains one of the biggest challenges to state authority in Lebanon. The substantial security threat that emanates from armed groups, especially Hezbollah, is of particular concern for the internal stability of Lebanon, the security of Israel, as well as the wider regions.
Let me also mention a national measure that we have taken recently with regard to Hezbollah. In order to tackle Hezbollah criminal and illegal activities, the German government has recently issued a ban of their activities, preventing any signs or symbols, as well as any form of gathering on German soil. It also shows that while we take Hezbollah's complex role in Lebanon into consideration, there is no excuse for the military activities outside the state structure, nor for any sort of criminal activities that contradict the principle of international understanding.
We expect the Lebanese government to assume responsibility and take serious steps to ensure control of all weapons in Lebanon and to disarm, Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. This requires further work on the national defense strategy and for the upgrading of LAF capabilities. Germany continues to stand ready to support this process, in particular by providing training to the Lebanese navy.
Until the LAF is in the position to assume greater responsibility, in particular in the south, UNIFIL will remain crucial to ensure stability and calm along the blue line. This has been underlined once again by the upsurge in alarming incidents we have seen over the past weeks. And we commend UNIFIL for having engaged in mediation efforts and preventing an escalation of tensions. We urge the Lebanese government and the LAF to fully cooperate with the mission and to provide it with full access and protection