Italian Prime Minister Holds High-Level Talks in Lebanon

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Thursday met with top Lebanese officials, with talks featuring high on the recent developments in Lebanon and the region.

Giuseppe first met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri who urged Italian companies to invest in Lebanon and called for the establishment of partnerships between private Italian and Lebanese companies.

"I consider the upcoming stage to be more productive in Lebanon as the country is capable of becoming a regional center for the Italian business sector,” Hariri said in a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart at the Grand Serail.

Hariri stressed that the Lebanese government is committed to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and to the dissociation policy, renewing the pledges made by the Lebanese Cabinet at the CEDRE conference.

Hariri thanked Conte for Italy’s continuous support, notably its contribution to the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in south Lebanon.

For his part, Conte noted that Lebanon and the new government are have several challenges to deal with, praising Hariri's determination to launch economic reforms.

“Dialogue must be the only solution to ease tensions on Lebanon's southern border; Italy will play a mediation role to reach a positive end,” Conte stated.

Italian premier said that his country is aware of the burden that Lebanon is bearing due to the Syrian refugees presence, noting that they now make up 30% of the Lebanese population which is the highest rate of refugees hosted by a country.

Conte later met with President Michel Aoun who called on European nations to understand Lebanon's stance regarding the refugees' return, saying that they must help securing a safe return to Syrian areas where stability has been restored.

For his part, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told the visiting guest that Israel needs to move away from Lebanon’s offshore Block 9, which contains potential oil and gas reserves, after it had awarded exploration licenses near disputed borders.