February 19, 2014

During Visit To Lebanon, Kaine, King Meet With Prime Minister Salam, President Sleiman, Lebanese Armed Forces Commander, Unhcr Official

Senators are first high-ranking U.S. officials to meet leaders of newly formed government

BEIRUT, LEBANON – U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and Central and South Asian Affairs, and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Angus King, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, made a two-day visit to Lebanon as part of their wider trip to the region. The Senators had substantive discussions with President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander General Jean Kahwagi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative Ninette Kelley, NGO representatives, and various Lebanese political figures.

The Senators condemned today’s terrorist bombing in the Bir el Hassam neighborhood of Beirut and extended their deepest condolences to the victims and their families. They expressed concern about increasing terrorist attacks in Lebanon and reiterated U.S. support for Lebanon as it combats such violence and other spillover effects from the Syrian crisis.

In the meeting with Prime Minister Salam, both Senators congratulated the Prime Minister for successfully forming a government, ending an 11 month stalemate, and urged that the presidential election take place on time. They also discussed how to respond to the needs of the more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and growing security concerns related to Hezbollah and other extremist groups. With President Sleiman, the Senators thanked him for his leadership and reiterated their support for stronger U.S.-Lebanon ties. With General Kahwagi, Kaine and King discussed the security relationship with the LAF, including U.S. military assistance and training, and General Kahwagi's commitment to building a professional military for all the people of Lebanon.
 
During their meeting with UNHCR Representative Ninette Kelley, the Senators discussed U.S. humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, which currently stands at over $340 million.  They encouraged UNHCR to integrate immediate refugee assistance and other Lebanese development initiatives.

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