Remarks by Walid Maalouf
Director Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern & MEPI Affairs
World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU)
Saturday, August 25, 2007
I am delighted to witness in the last few years how the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU) has been growing and advancing in the Diasporas uniting all the Lebanese immigrants while pushing for a stable, secure and prosperous Lebanon.
Since the presidency of Mr. Anis Garabet of Los Angeles and now under the leadership of Mr. Elie Hakmet of Brazil the WLCU has grown in size but also in quality. I am impressed with the dedication and the selflessness of its leadership in France, in the United States, in Brazil, obviously here in Canada, and indeed throughout the world, wherever we find a Lebanese community.
I was delighted to accept your invitation to Ottawa after having seen your strong presence in Paris last May, your wonderful work in Montréal last April, as well as last November, at the invitation of your dynamic Secretary General Mr. George Abi-Raad.
On each occasion, you ask again and again: “Walid, is the United States going to strike a deal with Syria over the sovereignty of Lebanon?” and I repeatedly respond, “No. The United States Government stands firm in its conviction that a free, sovereign and democratic Lebanon is not only right of the Lebanese people but a prerequisite for regional stability.” President Bush has been consistent on this point.
In a recent article in Al-Nahar newspaper the Vice President of Syria attacked our President for his beliefs in a sovereign and democratic Lebanon. He also criticized the President’s idea of a two state solution - Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security.
I would just like to remind all of you that President George W. Bush is the first U.S. president to call for an independent Palestinian state, firmly putting the United States’ power and prestige behind this cause, and all the Arab countries, including Syria, should find it in their own interest to work to achieve this goal. It is rather strange to see anyone denying the self determination of the Palestinian people and their desire to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors.
The Syrian government should accept the sovereign rights of the Lebanese people and their desire for democracy and stability. The international community has issued UNSC resolutions 1559, 1595, 1630, 1680, 1701 and 1775 in support of a sovereign Lebanon, and the Siniora government has unequivocal support from governments around the world. There are twelve thousand UNIFIL troops in Lebanon to help the Lebanese government extend its sovereignty over all Lebanese territory, and most of the Arab States are in full support of the dignity of the Lebanese people and their sovereign right to self determination.
We should be encouraged by the fact that the International Tribunal has been stood up and it will begin its proceedings soon. Lebanese sovereignty and democracy is being restored; the preparation for the regional peace conference is underway; the surge in Iraq is showing notable successes. There is no alternative to democracy as a political regime and this includes new democracies in the whole Middle East.
Dear Lebanese-Canadians, the U.S. Government’s commitment to Lebanon is non-negotiable. The U.S. is not only giving Lebanon the necessary diplomatic backing but also supporting desperately needed development. The U.S. Agency for International Development is implementing projects to rebuild Lebanon’s infrastructure after the July war between Hizballah and Israel. It has cleaned up the oil spill; it is rebuilding the Mudeirej Bridge; it has financed Lebanon Education Assistance through school improvements; it has funded the OPIC reconstruction program for homes and small businesses and last but not least the USG participated in Paris I, II & III and it is supporting the Lebanese army in bringing stability and peace to Lebanon.
Ladies and gentlemen: the United States, because of its multi-cultural society, is a global nation, not only in global power but also in global influence. The Lebanese American community throughout the United States realizes that in order to take from our United States experience with dignity, we have to give generously. People of Lebanese ancestry have made many contributions to Canada and the United States since we started immigrating in the mid 1800s. And we have benefited mightily from the blessings that liberty in these lands have bestowed on us. It is now time to give back to our motherland as we work to spread liberty and establish once and for all a free and sovereign Lebanon.
Remember, you are Lebanese. A proud and determined people. In supporting your aspirations, we will not falter, we will not yield and we will not tire until Lebanon is once again a free nation, totally sovereign and fully secure.
God bless Canada, the United States of America, and we pray that Lebanon will soon join the ranks of free nations.