President Barack Obama kicked off bilateral meetings at the United Nations Tuesday by conferring with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman as the White House announced that the US will provide $74 million in aid to help Lebanon deal with refugees from the Syrian civil war.
The two men met Tuesday in a room just across from the Security Council chamber, where Suleiman highlighted the plight of Syrian refugees and said that his own country is going through a “very difficult period.”
The Lebanese leader suggested that the international community should establish “safe zones” within Syria to relocate the displaced people. An estimated 1 million Syrian refugees have fled the conflict in Syria to Lebanon.
Suleiman said that his government was also trying to enforce an agreement that no Lebanese party become involved in the Syrian civil war.
Obama expressed his appreciation for Suleiman’s “courage” and added that the US “strongly rejects” the involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict.
During his Tuesday address to the United Nations General Assembly Obama announced that the US will commit an additional $340 million in humanitarian aid to areas affected by the crisis. The White House said in a statement that $74 million of the cash will go to support humanitarian assistance efforts in Lebanon, bringing the total contribution for Lebanon to more than $254 million in support of Syrian and Palestinian refugees and the Lebanese communities that host them.
“The United States commends the government and people of Lebanon for hosting and supporting nearly 800,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the Assad regime’s brutal violence,” the White House said. “The United States is committed to supporting Lebanon’s efforts to provide protection and assistance to those who have fled Syria, in conjunction with UN agencies and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners.”
According to White House more than 50 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are children, and more than 200,000 are school-aged.
The contributions provide rent support, essential household items, and food vouchers, as well as primary health care consultations, emergency medical care, and trauma counseling services for survivors of gender-based violence and those who have experienced horrific violence inside Syria.
In addition, the US is funding more than $62 million in development assistance programs in Lebanon that support the modernization of the public education system and water infrastructure, improve local governance, and increase economic opportunities, the statement said. The US will also provide $7.4 million in military assistance during 2013, adding to some $100 million provided since 2006.