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5 September 2007
Support and assistance for Lebanon
In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora further support to stabilise the country. Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, has increased aid for refugee camps in the country to four million euros. Merkel and Siniora also discussed the future of the international United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
The Chancellor and her guest discussed the situation in Lebanon. Merkel emphasised that the aim of German and European policy is to strengthen the sovereignty, independence and multi-religious character of Lebanon.
For the Chancellor there can be no doubt that the UNIFIL force has been successful. She underlined the fact that in addition to protecting the Lebanese coast the German armed forces are also involved in training the Lebanese armed forces, "to enable the Lebanese navy to gradually assume responsibility for this in future," as Merkel put it.
Future efforts will also concentrate on securing the Lebanese-Syrian border. Once again the Chancellor called on Syria to recognise Lebanon and thus make a constructive contribution to bringing peace to the region.
The presidential elections soon to be held in Lebanon will mark an important phase in the stabilisation of the country, according to Merkel. She reported that she had promised the Lebanese government Germany's support, also within the European Union.
Assistance for the refugee camps
After his meeting with the Chancellor, Prime Minister Siniora met Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. She promised the Lebanese government an additional two million euros in support for Palestine refugees in Lebanon. During her visit to Lebanon in June, Wieczorek-Zeul had already made available two million euros. Lebanon's refugee camps are home to 400,000 Palestinians.
"Some people have lived in these camps for decades. Many were born in the camps. Water and electricity supplies in particular are terribly poor. We want to do our bit to improve conditions in the camps," stated the minister. Assistance will also help reduce the influence of radical groups, that are close to Al Qaeda, emphasised Wieczorek-Zeul.
Prime Minister Siniora expressed his thanks for the German contingent that is part of the UNIFIL mission, and for the contribution Germany is making to developing his country. The Lebanese Prime Minister last visited Berlin one year ago. The Chancellor was in Beirut in April this year. Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier too visited Lebanon in July, August and December.
Currently, some 1,000 men and women of the German armed forces are deployed as part of the Maritime Task Force (MTF) of the United Nation Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Within the framework of this mission they are protecting the Lebanese coast. In close cooperation with the Lebanese navy, they have managed to prevent weapons being smuggled into the country by sea.
On 22 August the German government voted to extend the deployment of the German armed forces in Lebanon. This must still be approved by the Bundestag, or German parliament, however.