Italy vows to keep supporting Lebanon
BEIRUT, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano vowed Thursday that his country would continue to support Lebanon's economy and army.
According to the National News Agency, Alfono met with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil and stressed in a joint press conference that "Lebanon is a module for democracy and pluralism in the Middle East and plays a key role in maintaining the region's stability."
"Our aid to Lebanon is to preserve it," he added.
"Italy is present in Lebanon through its United Nation Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeepers," Alfano said.
The visiting minister also praised Lebanon's efforts in hosting a large number of Syrians on its territories.
According to the United NationsHigher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Lebanon hosts more than 1.1 million Syrians, while the Lebanese government puts the number around 1.5 million.
Bassil for his part said "We thank Italy's involvement in Lebanon with UNIFIL," adding that "We hail UNIFIL's role in maintaining Lebanon's stability despite constant Israeli violations."
On Syrian refugees, Bassil said that "Lebanon has reached a breaking point due to the economic, living and security burdens imposed by the presence of heavy Syrian refugees."
On trade ties, the Lebanese FM encouraged Italian companies to be involved in Lebanon's fledgling oil and gas sector. He also voiced hope that Italy could continue to build strong economic relations with Lebanon.[ Editor: meng ]