Statement on the Anniversary of the Death of Rafic Hariri

Washington, DC
February 13, 2015

Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, known to many as “Mr. Lebanon,” was guided by his vision of a stable, sovereign, and prosperous homeland. For years, he gave hope to Lebanon’s youth through scholarship programs that helped to educate generations, even during his country’s darkest days. He stood for peaceful change and the resolution of differences through conversations – not carnage. He spent his life working to make Lebanon more democratic, more free, more prosperous, and more secure – for all its people.

Ten years ago today, he was assassinated because some feared he might succeed.

Still today, justice for that crime has not been served, and the United States stands with the Lebanese people and the international community in supporting the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and demanding that the murderers of Rafik Hariri be held accountable.

We also recognize the need to focus – not only on justice for the cowardly crimes of the past – but on Lebanon’s future – on honoring the legacy that Hariri left behind.

On behalf of President Barack Obama, I can tell you that America’s commitment to Lebanon remains as strong as ever. We continue to support in very practical ways Lebanon’s full sovereignty and independence from outside influence, including through our support for the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the Baabda Declaration, and Lebanon’s dissociation policy from foreign conflicts. And we continue to support Lebanon’s efforts to strengthen its political and security institutions as a safeguard against violence, whether from outside or inside the country.

No challenge is more perilous to Lebanon’s security than the rise of violent extremism throughout the region. We are committed to helping the Lebanese Armed Forces meet this challenge, because they alone have the legitimacy to defend their country’s borders and protect their citizens. Make no mistake: there is no justification for the retention of arms by a militia or terrorist group that answers – not to the Lebanese people – but to foreign governments in Damascus and Tehran.

Between the spillover of extremist violence from Syria, the refugee crisis created by that conflict, and the economic difficulties that exacerbate every other test Lebanon is facing, it’s fair to say that the status quo is not the Lebanon that Prime Minister Hariri envisioned. And while finally moving forward with the election of a Lebanese president will not fully resolve these challenges, it will be an essential step in the right direction. I urge Lebanon’s leaders not to look outside of their country for a resolution to the presidential gridlock, but instead to find a solution from within. Unless and until a president is chosen, the erosion of Lebanon’s political institutions will only become more pronounced.

As Lebanon seeks to fulfill its potential – as it seeks to continue Hariri’s work toward a better future – the United States will stand right by its side. We will continue to work with political leaders, activists, scholars, and public servants throughout the country who share Hariri’s vision for a sovereign, secure and prosperous Lebanon. And we will be guided by the clear understanding that the answers to the challenges facing Lebanon today lie – as they did ten years ago – not in violence and extremism, but in moderation and coexistence.