Humanitarian aid and Syria crisis at centre of Ignazio Cassis's visit to Lebanon
Bern, 08.04.2021 - During his visit to Lebanon, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis visited the port of Beirut and a hospital destroyed by the explosion of 4 August 2020, which was rebuilt with Switzerland's help. He also visited a settlement of Syrian refugees. Together with Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe and President Michel Aoun he discussed the economic and political problems in Lebanon. This marked the final stage of Mr Cassis's trip to the Middle East, which also encompassed Iraq and Oman.
In Beirut, Mr Cassis paid a visit to the port which was destroyed by a devastating explosion eight months previously. Switzerland quickly dispatched emergency relief teams to Beirut after the disaster, making CHF 6 million available to aid efforts on the ground. In line with its International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24, Switzerland has focused on the areas of health and education.
After his visit to the port of Beirut, the head of the FDFA visited one of the two hospitals that have been rebuilt with Swiss aid. "We were all shocked by the magnitude of the explosion that devastated the heart of Beirut. It is a relief to see that, thanks to Swiss solidarity, patients are once again receiving treatment in this hospital," said Cassis. By rebuilding the two hospitals and 19 schools, Switzerland is the first country to have completed fulfilment of the support it had pledged. Mr Cassis later visited the Swiss embassy, which was badly damaged in the explosion, and thanked the staff for their efforts in such difficult circumstances.
In talks with his counterpart Charbel Wehbe and with President Aoun, Mr Cassis underscored Switzerland's solidarity with Lebanon. He expressed his hope that a government would soon be appointed to implement the urgently-needed reforms to help Lebanon navigate out of the serious economic and political crisis it is facing.
Visit to an informal Syrian refugee settlement
Mr Cassis also visited an informal settlement of Syrian refugees, reaffirming in doing so Switzerland's support. "This year sadly marks the tenth anniversary of the crisis in Syria. I am proud of Switzerland's work in supporting these refugees and host communities. Lebanon has shown exemplary solidarity in welcoming almost 1.5 millions Syrian refugees. Switzerland is also committed to assisting the refugees and their host communities." Since the start of the Syrian crisis ten years ago, Switzerland has committed more than CHF 520 million to the region, which makes this Switzerland's biggest ever humanitarian undertaking.
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