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‘Korea, Lebanon to further mutual understanding, cooperation in all areas’Charge d’Affaires Elias Nicolas of Lebanon assures at National Day reception

Charge d’Affaires Elias Nicolas of the Republic of Lebanon said, “Equipped with shared values, the Republic of Korea and Lebanon have been committed to their friendly relations and to furthering their mutual understanding at all levels.” Speaking at a reception he hosted at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Nov. 1, 2016 in celebration of the National Day of Lebanon, CDA Nicolas then added, “Our cooperation and so many instances of exchange of support inside the UN and other international organizations and multilateral forums have widened our global common ground and contributed to better understanding of the political and economic endeavors that have been preoccupying the people and government of the two countries.” (See excerpts from his speech toward the end of this Article.)

CDA Elias Nicolas of Lebanon (9th from left) cuts the National Day of Lebanon celebration cake with Deputy Minister Kim Hyoung-Zhin of MOF (8th from left) and other distinguished guests.

There were many distinguished guests from the Korean society, who included Deputy Foreign Minister for political affairs, Mr. Kim Hyoung-Zhin, Representative Shikwan Yang of SKAP, Managing Director Isabelle Park of NEXUS and Professor Chan Ok Kang of Korea University. From the media came many representatives who included Chairman Lee Kyung-sik who came with his English and Korean editors and reporters.
Attendance from the Seoul Diplomatic Corps was also significant, and included Ambassadors Ramzi Teymurov of Azerbaijan, Andrei Popkov of Belarus, Guadalupe Palomeque de Taboada of Bolivia, Adrien Theatre of Belgium, Dato Paduka Haji Modh Rosli Bin Haji Sabtu of Brunei Darussalam , Petar Andonov of Bulgaria, Stephan Auer of Germany, Nikoloz Apkhazava of Georgia, Hassan Taherian of Iran, Adel Mohammad Adaileh of Jordan, Peteris Vaivars of Latvia, Mohamed Salim Alharthy of Oman, Ruben Eloy Arosemena Valdes of Panama, Irineo Raul Silvero Silvagni of Paraguay, Riyad A. H. Almubaraky of Saudi Arabia, Mohamad Abdelaal of Sudan and Ambassador Hakan Okcal of Turkey.

Ms. Elias Nicolas, spouse of the Lebanese CDA (center) poses with the spouses of a number of ambassadors behind the celebration cake.

Excerpts from the speech of CDA Nicolas of the Republic of Lebanon:
Excellency Deputy Foreign Minister for political affairs, Mr. Kim Hyoung-Zhin, Excellencies and dear colleagues, ambassadors and chiefs of diplomatic missions and international organizations, and members of the diplomatic community Representatives of the media and social and cultural associations Korean friends Dear guests Ladies and gentlemen, With great pleasure, I welcome you all at our National Day reception this year, to share with us the joy and the pride that entails the commemoration of the Independence of Lebanon on its 73rd anniversary.

It is more than just a ceremonial event. It is the celebrations of a unique historical experience of a small country in an turbulent part of the world, where the Lebanese of all religious and ethnic groups have chosen power-sharing over authoritarian rule and atrocities, coexistence and conviviality instead of hatred, emancipating liberal democracy based on an over lapping consensus over enslaving ideologies.
It is a tribute to the great leaders in the history of Lebanon, before and after independence, whose different political and religious affiliations have not prevented them from putting their hands together and drawing a pragmatic vision of a pluralist society and inclusive political system.
It is also a celebration of a culture that despite all difficulties have not lost its tolerance, and a testimonial for an artistic and literary heritage that has shaped the modern outlook of Lebanon as a space of freedom of thought and creativity.

CDA Elias Nicolas of Lebabon speaks to the guests.

It is the spirit of past and present, and the glances of hope sparkling in the Lebanese eyes looking at the phoenix bird, at every encounter, resuscitating from its ashes to fly again higher and higher in a blue sky that affectionately leans to the immortal green cedars on the shining white peaks.
As a parliamentary liberal democracy based on the principle of separation of powers, their balance and cooperation, Lebanon strives to protect its diversity and ensure the universal principles of human rights and freedoms within a free economic system that encourages and secures individual entrepreneurship and initiative and promotes partnership between the public and private sectors.
Our vibrant civil society and active business and financial sectors, and the global commercial and cultural networks of our diaspora, have always played a crucial role in the preservation of our values and liberal traditions.
Lebanon pluralism is not a mere coexistence but rather a common space of conviviality, built over centuries of political, social and cultural interactions; Not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity;
Not just tolerance or relativism, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference and the encounter of commitments amidst different cultural identities. If diversity is a given, pluralism is an achievement. Based on dialogue, Lebanon pluralism reveals both common understandings and real differences. Therefore, as our constitution reads, “There shall be no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which contradicts the pact of mutual existence.”

From right: Deputy Minister Kim, CDA Nicolas of Lebanon and Mrs. Nicolas.

“A strong and unified Lebanon for all its citizens, a Lebanon of freedom and dignity, a Lebanon of sovereignty and independence, a Lebanon of stability and prosperity, a Lebanon of Pact and message” is the strategic goal of the principled vision of President Michel Aoun. In his inaugural address, Mr. president gives priority to political stability and national unity as the mainpillars of security and progress. First and foremost, this can only be achieved by the respect for the National Pact, the Constitution and other binding national commitments, and by a real and effective partnership and participation in political decision making, through a new electoral Law thatensures fair representation. Furthermore, this promising vision doesn’t lose touch with the internal reality and the imperatives of socio-economic stability and reform, the fight of corruption and the transparency of the judiciary and the public service. President Michel Aoun also stresses the necessity todissociate Lebanon from external conflicts, while remaining committed to the Charter of the League of Arab States, and to adopt an independent foreignpolicy based on Lebanon’s higher interests and the respect of international law.
However, The Lebanese and their leaders are fully aware of the multiple challenges that surround Lebanon today. Fighting terrorism by preventing, deterring and countering it and sparing no effort and no resistance to liberate the remaining occupied Lebanese territories by Israel, and protect our country from an enemy that still covets our land, water and natural resources, are among the top challenges to preserve our security and territorial integrity.
Terrorism, religious fanaticism and expansionist ideologies feed on the samebloodshed and therefore1 deemed as the antidote of Lebanon’s pluralism.
Another current challenge is the huge social, economic and security burden of refugees in Lebanon, the implementation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees and a solution for the Syrian crisis that guarantees and begins with the return of the Syrian refugees.

Deputy Minister Kim Hyoung-Zhin of MOFA makes a congratulatory speech.

To tackle these challenges, Lebanon seeks the support and the cooperation of the concerned states and authorities, on the regional and international levels, and a close coordination within the UN and its agencies. We also need to work closely with our partners and friends around the world in order toachieve that, being assured that the Republic of Korea, as a peace-lovingnation and an active contributor to world peace and security and humanitarianrelief projects, has all the potential to play a vital role in this regard.
With shared values, the Republic of Korea and Lebanon have been committed to their friendly relations and to furthering their mutual understanding on all levels. Our cooperation and the so many instances of exchange of support inside the UN and other international organisations and multilateral forums have widen our global common ground and contributed to better understanding of the political and economic endeavours that have been preoccupying the people and governments of both countries.
With the establishment of diplomatic relations in February 1981, during the Lebanese war, and shortly after that with the inauguration of the Embassy in 1994, our bilateral relations have entered a new phase of dynamic interactions. After Israel aggression against Lebanon in July-August 2006, The operations of a Korean battalion as part of the peace keeping forces of the UNIFL in thesouth of Lebanon for the implantation of the UN Security Council resolution 1701, have brought Koreans to an entirely new experience of direct connection with the Lebanese and to a real encounter with the many difficulties and threats that Lebanon have suffered due to long history of Israeli occupation and aggression. Korean Authorities have subsequently engaged with the Lebanese Authorities as well as with the local population in the field of operations of the RokBatt. As a result, many development projects were put in place by donations from the Korean Government. Lebanon has expressed on many occasions its gratitude to the Korean people for such agenerously constructive support.

Logo ice work of Lebanon

Our cooperation was also the result of the necessity to put an end to the sufferings of wars that both Korea and Lebanon have lived in the past, as well as the outcome of a shared vision of a world emancipated from threat andaggression, looking forward to a better future, free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction that endanger security and stability, whether it is in East Asia or the Middle East or in any part of the world.
The dynamism of our relations was also driven by the relatively recent improvement of our bilateral trade. In the last 20 years, Lebanese imports from Korea have increased threefold and Lebanese exports more than tenfold. Yet, in terms of trade value and volumes, Korea is still enjoying afavourable balance of trade with a big trade gap.
Building on that recent development of the movement of trade, the last fifteenyears have witnessed the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding to Hold Annual Consultations (2005), and other several cultural and trade bilateral agreements, and the launch of "Korea and Lebanon Connect” in 2014 as a trade Collaboration forum.
In addition to the visits of high-profile public officials and figures, many delegations from the Lebanese Army and civil departments have visited TheRoK in the last two years.
Our engagement with Korea-Arab Society, the local authorities, the Civil Society and other NGOs and cultural associations has been revealed in the presence of the embassy in many festivals and events throughout the country.
We are convinced that the potential of our multilateral and bilateral relations is
much higher than what was so far achieved. And we look forward to exploringmore opportunities in the future!

Lee Kyung-sik  edt@koeapost.com

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