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HARIRI: PRESIDENT MACRON IS WORKING TO CALM ESCALATION IN REGION

The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri spoke to the press at the end of his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace, which lasted for about an hour and a half.

He said:

"It was a friendly meeting. France always stands by Lebanon's side. We spoke about the region and about CEDRE, which is most important to us, especially in the economic situation we face. We also agreed on further communication, especially as we completed the follow-up committee, and hopefully there will be another meeting for us in Paris in November. The CEDRE issues are going well and we have to make the necessary reforms that we discussed in the cabinet and the budget. This gives us a positive atmosphere for things to gradually return economically to where they were, especially when the world sees that we are doing our duties towards our economy. We cannot continue the way we have been working. The French president was very keen to help Lebanon and its stability, and this is reassuring. He is ready to continue in this direction and help Lebanon in any way possible, what is important for him is that the Lebanese and political parties be keen to carry out the reform. The reform is not required in order to obtain funds, but to improve the performance of the state in Lebanon, for the interest of citizens, and to fight corruption. We are optimistic about CEDRE and hopefully, we are advancing on this level.

We also talked about the regional situation, and President Macron is working to calm the region, especially after the recent escalation."

Question: Are the French satisfied with what Lebanon is doing so far in terms of reforms and measure?

Hariri: Certainly there were remarks. We took these remarks into consideration. But what is important is to speed up these reforms. We have no more time. Had we made these reforms before the Fitch and S&P reports, we would not be here today. We should not delay the reform, because reform helps Lebanon.

Question: What about the 400 million euros you talked about as a new loan from France?

Hariri: It is not a new loan. At the Rome conference there was support for the Lebanese army. We have a program of about one billion dollars to equip the Lebanese army. If we want to spend this amount, it will cost us about 14 or 15% interests to arm ourselves with the ships we need, since we are working on the issue of maritime oil and gas exploitation, and therefore we must protect these industries.

We are currently negotiating with the French state on how to obtain this loan over a period of 10 or 15 years in order to purchase these ships.

Question: But there was restlessness from the Italian side?

Hariri: No, there is no problem. It is the Lebanese media that likes to exaggerate.

Question: Did you talk about the situation of Lebanon in light of the American-Iranian conflict after the Aramco crisis?

Hariri: The Aramco crisis is very serious and we should not deal with it lightly. What happened at Aramco escalated things to a much higher level. We hope that there will be no further escalation, and the Kingdom has the right to react in the manner it considers appropriate. In the end, it is an attack on its territory and sovereignty.

Question: Will there be a French role in this regard?

Hariri: Certainly, the French role is permanent in this matter to reduce the escalation.

Question: How was your meeting with the heads of French companies in the morning?

Hariri: The meeting was excellent, and they are all enthusiastic to invest in CEDRE.

Question: Yesterday, you visited Riyadh and there is talk about a Saudi financial support for Lebanon. Did you hear anything about this?

Hariri: We are working to hold a meeting for the Saudi-Lebanese Higher Committee, and we have completed about 19 agreements to sign. We will also talk about how the Kingdom can help us with our financial situation. More importantly, it is the first time that a higher committee is held between us and Saudi Arabia to sign economic agreements and facilities between the two countries, so that we can work better.

Later on, Hariri received at his residence in Paris the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and discussed with him the situation in Lebanon and the region as well as the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Source: National News Agency

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