BEIRUT- French Prime Minister François Fillon arrived in Beirut Nov. 20 for an official two-day visit. He and President of the Republic General Michel Suleiman met in the Presidential Palace to review French-Lebanese relations, that both characterized as excellent, and ways to strengthen them. Fillon confirmed continued French support for Lebanon and commended the government for reclaiming its role and position in regional and international affairs and moving toward improved political and internal security. He expressed French satisfaction with the decisions of Lebanon and Syria to open embassies and exchange ambassadors, and the hope that effects of global financial crisis on Lebanon would be minimal. President Suleiman thanked France for standing by Lebanon and its contribution to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) based in the south. He said Lebanon had avoided negative effects of the global crisis by introducing prudent regulatory measures over the Lebanese banking system.
President Suleiman affirmed that relations with Syria are advancing in light of practical steps taken to set up embassies and exchange ambassadors. He reconfirmed that ambassadors would be appointed before the end of the year. He also cited improvement in Lebanon’s security based on the army’s successes in arresting persons linked to terrorist networks.
President Suleiman stated that the situation in the south is good and that, in implementation of UN Resolution 1701, there is cooperation between the army and UNIFIL. He also asserted Lebanon's right to demand control of the Shab’a farm area, and referred to a request for the UN to consider a joint statement issued after the Lebanese-Syrian summit. The statement stipulated that the area is Lebanese and Lebanon wants it serve as an official document on the basis of which the UN would confirm Lebanese ownership of the area.
Fillon later held talks with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in Government House. They also signed several cooperation agreements and protocols, mostly economic in nature, tied to the €500 million the French pledged to Lebanon at the 'Paris III' donors conference in January 2007.
Fillon also visited the village of Al-Tiri, where French forces of UNIFIL are based. UNIFIL is charged with implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.