The EU and Lebanon Monday underlined their common desire to boost bilateral political, economic and security cooperation for regional stability and prosperity.
"We reiterated our commitment to Lebanon's unity, stability, independence and territorial integrity, particularly given the deteriorating situation in Syria and instability in the region," EU High Representative Federica Mogherini told a press conference after the 7th EU-Lebanese Association Council meeting here.
"We are full aware of the immense security challenges that the crisis in Syria poses to Lebanon. Lebanon is making huge efforts to provide shelter to refugees from Syria," she said and noted that the "EU is ready to step up its support to Lebanon to address these challenges." Mogherini stated that the EU is already providing substantial support to Lebanon with an overall envelope of 180 million euro last year and an additional 37 million euro in humanitarian aid announced last week.
In addition, the European Commission last week adopted its strategy to help Iraq and Syria and to fight ISIL with one billion euro attached to help the neighbouring countries including Lebanon on humanitarian and development and security areas, she said.
"Our common work on counter-terrorism will also be strengthened and we discussed in detail about that. Today we discussed the overall development of bilateral relations, the implementation of the EU-Lebanon Association Agreement and the Action Plan," said the EU foreign policy chief.
The two sides signed the protocol to the Association Agreement earlier today enabling Lebanon's participation in EU programmes.
The EU and Lebanon held their political dialogue in Brussels yesterday, she said adding that "this meeting is extremely timely as we have a number of issues of common interest to discuss." The Lebanese ministers of trade and energy also participated in today's meeting.
On his part, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil told the joint press conference that they had a "fruitful Association Council where we discussed thoroughly our bilateral relations which witnessed a qualitative development recently." "We thanked the EU for its support and we hope for further support as needs are growing and challenges in the region are adding up," he said.
"Our main message was that Lebanon has a founding philosophy of moderation, tolerance and inclusive political society which makes the Lebanese model very instrumental for the stability of the region and for EU relations with the region," said Bassil.
"This model today is under heavy strain and should be supported for the sake of the future. Terrorism is targeting Lebanon in order to inflict damage to its social fabric and is being faced with the determination of the Lebanese armed forces and the people," he said.
Pointing to the large number of Syrian refuges in Lebanon, he said this poses a political, security and economic burden and is straining the Lebanese model itself.
He said that they discussed the regional situation "where the political stagnation on Syria and the peace process is creating a vacuum being filled by Daesh." "Hence we see hope in the EU moving actively to tackle political crises in the region for the benefit of security, stability and prosperity," he added.