Hariri Meets Russia PM, FM, Urges Stronger Military, Economic Cooperation
Prime Minister Saad Hariri held separate talks Tuesday with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“You are following an approach to strengthen the relations and cooperation with Russia and we appreciate it a lot and consider it very important for the future of the relations,” Medvedev told Hariri at his Gorki-9 residence outside Moscow.
“We also strongly support your policy of consolidation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and both countries are facing numerous problems, particularly the problem of terrorism,” the Russian PM added.
“I want to congratulate you on your success in eliminating the extremist groups inside your borders and this is very important. We are ready to continue enhancing cooperation in fighting terrorism and in other sensitive fields,” Medvedev went on to say.
Hariri for his part said: “The political relations between the two countries have always been excellent and we look forward to bringing the economic relations to the level of the political relations. Lebanon suffers from several problems, most importantly terrorism. We succeeded in winning several battles against terrorism, but Lebanon needs its friends, particularly Russia.”
“In Lebanon, we also have the problem of the displaced Syrians and this issue should be looked at from the angle that if a political solution is reached in Syria, it should include the return of the displaced to their homeland not only from Lebanon but from all over the world,” he added.
“We want the Russian companies to come and work in Lebanon,” Hariri urged.
“We are also in the process of rearming the Lebanese army and we want a military cooperation between Lebanon and Russia. But what is important for us is to preserve Lebanon’s neutrality regarding all the problems around it because we are living in a very turbulent region,” the PM added.
Hariri then invited Medvedev to visit Lebanon.
Discussions continued over a lunch banquet held by the Russian prime minister in honor of Hariri and the accompanying delegation.
Earlier in the day, Hariri had said during talks with FM Lavrov that “empowering the Lebanese army and security forces is crucial in order to empower the Lebanese State.”
“We want to empower the Lebanese army and security forces in order to empower the State. We look forward for the great role Russia will play in the region,” said Hariri.
“I am determined to develop economic and military relations as well, and to explore the purchase of weapons from Russia to strengthen the Lebanese army which is very important for Lebanon,” he added.
Turning to the crisis of Syrian refugees, Hariri said: "We know well of the massive efforts exerted in order to find a political solution in Syria. We hope the refugees return back to their homeland as part of a political solution too."
The PM hoped the visit will be “fruitful in support of the Lebanese economy," saying he is eying “developed relations” with Russia.
Hariri's meeting with Lavrov at the Russian foreign ministry was held in the presence of the accompanying delegation comprised of ministers Ghassan Hasbani, Melhem Riachi, Nouhad al-Mashnouq, Ali Hassan Khalil, Ghattas Khoury, Youssef Fenianos, Raed Khoury and Nader Hariri -- the premier's chief of staff.
For his part, Lavrov hailed endeavors to “develop and strengthen Lebanese-Russian political, economic and humanitarian ties.”
"It is a good opportunity to exchange views on the problems in the Middle East,” he said.
"We support your efforts and those of your government to stabilize the situation in Lebanon and to unite efforts to fight terrorism," he said.
Lavrov also congratulated Lebanon on the success of the military operation carried out by the Lebanese army against the Islamic State extremist group in the outskirts of its eastern border.