Paris, 25 January 2007 - "From Paris we want to send out a clear signal of confidence and hope to the people in Lebanon", said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the margins of the international Lebanon conference in Paris. "After the terrible events of the past summer and the ongoing internal political conflicts, Lebanon is in a very difficult political situation. The international community has pledged to support Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the Lebanese government through concrete measures and proposals to assist their efforts aimed at stability and reconstruction of the country", she explained.
At the invitation of French President Jacques Chirac, top-level representatives from over 30 states as well as of international organisations and financial institutions have come together for talks with the Lebanese government. This "Paris III" conference is the third summit of the "Friends of Lebanon" organised by France to mobilise and coordinate the international community's support for Lebanon. Plassnik pointed out that during its Presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2006 Austria had undertaken special efforts on behalf of Lebanon, one of its accomplishments in this regard being the signing of an Association Agreement between the EU and Lebanon.
"A return to stability and security in Lebanon is an indispensable building block for resolving the conflicts in the Middle East. Any progress we can achieve here will exert a positive knock-on effect on the entire region. Together we must create dynamic forward movement towards a peace process", continued Plassnik. This explained the great importance of the participations of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the conference, she added.
"Austria is offering Lebanon concrete aid and support. We have succeeded in making available 1 million euros for projects, 300,000 euros of which are from Austrian Development Cooperation funds. This money is earmarked for United Nations projects aimed at improving the situation of Palestinian refugees. Further 700,000 euros from the International Disaster Relief Fund will be invested in support of the reform process", stated the Foreign Minister. Plassnik also spoke out in favour of intensifying the international efforts aimed at the elimination of cluster bombs. In this connection the Foreign Minister, who travelled to the region only last December, underlined the fact that the Middle East is a foreign policy priority of the new Austrian government's programme.
In response to the dramatic humanitarian situation in the aftermath of the armed clashes between Israel and the Hezbollah militias in August last year the Austrian federal government had immediately provided emergency humanitarian aid amounting to 900,000 euros. Of this amount, 500,000 euros had been deployed via the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Austrian non-governmental organisations. The measures thus financed primarily concentrate on providing internally displaced persons with emergency supplies of food, water, medicines and hygiene articles, as well as on the provision of psycho-social care for traumatised children. Austria had earmarked the remaining 400,000 euros for measures aimed at the elimination of cluster bombs.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
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