Opening statement of the President of the Council of Ministers,

Dr. Salim El Hoss

At the outset, I would like to express to you my profound appreciation and thanks for responding positively to our invitation to this conference.

Lebanonís appeal to the international community for assistance in providing the liberated territories with emergency relief and socio-economic, medium-term, development and reconstruction programs is indeed prompted by Lebanonís responsibility toward a veritable disaster area.

A large stretch of the South and West Bekaa regions was under Israeli occupation for 22 years, in utter disregard of the U.N. Security Council resolution, issued back in 1978, which called upon Israel to withdraw its forces immediately and unconditionally from all Lebanese territory up to the internationally recognized borders. Throughout that macabre and stressful period, life in the occupied territories was virtually paralyzed, the vicinity was devastated by continued acts of armed aggression, the overwhelming majority of the population were displaced under morbid conditions, and too many homes were demolished. Too many people were bereaved by the loss or the brutal incarceration of kin, or impoverished by the havoc wrought to sources of their livelihood.

These people now need the support of the world community to recover a sense of decent life, to reattain a sense of normalcy, to recapture the means to self-sustaining livelihood. Unless this is achieved in earnest, the liberated territories menace to be a breeding ground for instability in Lebanon, which may not be conducive to regional stability.

The Lebanese feel that the international community did not do enough to compel Israel to abide by U.N. Security Council Resolution 425 with a view to ending its occupation of Lebanese territories much earlier, hence the tragic consequences which the whole of Lebanon had to suffer as its resources deteriorated, its economy was debilitated, and its population enduring searing ordeals.

The Lebanese entertain a strong conviction that they are entitled to massive reparations from Israel for all the losses and damages they suffered because of Israelís long occupation of their land in blatant defiance of the United Nations will.

We have envisioned a two-tier plan for the rescue of the liberated areas: an action program for a prompt emergency effort aimed at fulfilling urgent and vital needs and requirements, and a blueprint for medium-term reconstruction and development aimed at upgrading various socio-economic infrastructure facilities in order to catch up with the requisites of a modicum of civilized, modern life.

As Lebanon celebrates the liberation of valuable stretches of territory from dire Israeli occupation, the Lebanese remain preoccupied with at least two issues: the continuous existence of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails, and the continuous occupation by Israel of the Shebaí Farms to the south-east, and the existence of three deviations from the internationally recognized border along the withdrawal line, better known as the blue line, drawn up by the United Nations, over which Lebanon expressed its reservations.

Lebanon also looks forward to prompt and effective action from the world community to find a fair solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees, of whom Lebanon hosts no less than 350 to 400 thousand. Any viable solution to this question will have to hinge on these peopleís right to return to their homeland in Palestine. Short of a fair solution to this problem, it threatens to be a destabilizing factor in the Middle East.

The ultimate target, however, is to reach a fair and comprehensive settlement with Israel on all tracks. This is an occasion for us to reassert that we are indeed committed to the peace process, albeit in the context of a concomitance between the Lebanese-Israeli and the Syrian-Israeli tracks.

We thank each and every one of you for your participation in this conference, hoping that your deliberations will be crowned with success. We are pinning a great deal of hope on your appreciation of Lebanonís needs and requirements.

Salim El Hoss
President of the Council of Ministers
Minister of Foreign Affairs