President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, asserted the importance of concerted Arab efforts to confront the issue of food security and secure food and agricultural products for our peoples.

The President called for the need to launch the Arab Common Market to improve trade exchanges and address food shortages in order to achieve food integration, especially in light of the difficulties and the global food crisis and the war in Ukraine.

President Aoun’s positions came while receiving a delegation of agriculture ministers from Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq participating in the quadripartite meeting that was held in Beirut on the 28th and 29th of July.

The delegation included ministers: Abbas Al-Hajj Hassan, Jordanian Khaled Al-Hanaifat, Syrian Muhammad Hassan Qatana, Iraqi Muhammad Karim Al-Khafaji, in the presence of the ambassadors of the countries participating in the conference in Lebanon, the Jordanian ambassador Walid Al-Hadid, the Iraqi ambassador Haider Shia Al-Barrak and the Syrian ambassador Ali Abdul Karim Ali.

At the beginning, Minister Hajj Hassan thanked President Aoun for his interest and care of the agricultural file and his keenness to consolidate Arab-Arab relations, noting that the ministerial meeting of the agricultural quartet, which was held in Beirut, aims to consolidate Arab relations in the agricultural sector between these countries and overcome all obstacles to achieve agricultural integration, especially concerning the issue of transit and building a complete system in this sector.

Minister Hajj Hasan pointed out that it was agreed to conclude a four-way agreement in this context, stressing that the four-way summit sent a positive message to the rest of the Arab countries, to the effect that we are able to consolidate Arab-Arab relations and the return of Arab cohesion from the capital Beirut, which has always been the focus of attention of all countries of the world.

Then Minister Qatna expressed his happiness at the summit being held in Beirut, praising the Lebanese-Syrian relations.

Minister Qatna stressed integration between the Lebanese and Syrian peoples, especially in the field of agricultural products exchange, especially since the region depends mainly on agricultural production and explained that the idea of holding the summit in Beirut started during the meetings of the “FAO” in Baghdad, and its aim was to overcome the difficulties and problems facing the exchange of agricultural products within the four countries, and the agreements concluded between these countries were reviewed, and each of them related to the requirements of the two countries parties to the agreement.

Minister Qatna also explained that during the summit meetings, an attempt was made to unify the administrative procedures related to plant quarantine, veterinary quarantine, the issue of transit, standard specifications and various technical and administrative procedures that facilitate agricultural exchange between countries.

“On the relative increases in agricultural products, an added value will be achieved for farmers and at the same time the exchange of production between countries, thus achieving integration between the four countries and the food security that we lost in the recent period as a result of the difficulty of importing production requirements and the difficulty of exporting the rest of the products, in addition to climatic changes, high temperature and the proportion of humidity and high precipitation equipment” Minister Qatna said.

Minister Qatna stressed the importance of “Cooperating with international and Arab organizations to support our joint programs and establish a joint project”.

In addition, Minister Qatna pointed out that “Our ambition is to include the largest number of Arab countries in this alliance and to strengthen relations at the agricultural level” considering that “the circumstances that have passed through the Arab countries have impeded the implementation of the Arab Free Trade Agreement that was sponsored by the Arab League, and there is an agreed upon unified Arab calendar, but as a result of climatic changes, the change and development of production chains and the presence of new food industries and other target markets, it has become necessary to review this calendar and unify these efforts and measures”.

“We have been informed by Minister Hajj Hassan of an important plan to develop agriculture in Lebanon, and we in Syria are ready to provide any technical assistance in this regard” Qatna added.

Afterwards, Minister Hanifat referred to the global and regional challenges facing the agricultural sector, in addition to climate changes and the Corona pandemic, stressing the importance of facing these challenges in a collective manner.

Minister Hanifat pointed out that “The circumstances and difficulties facing the four countries participating in the summit are one, and therefore, through our intensive meetings, we will be able to confront common crises. I hope that political support will be invested in further cooperation for the good of these countries”.

Then Minister Al-Khafaji stressed that the region is going through a major crisis in terms of food security, and the main issue that was discussed is the trade exchange and the exchange of goods available in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.

Minister Al-Khalafji stressed that Iraq is a large import market and it needs Lebanese products, and several administrative measures have been agreed upon between the four countries to facilitate export and trade exchange operations, and on September 14, a second conference will be held in Syria.

Minister Al-Khalafji also stressed that the conference’s recommendations will be very good for all farmers and consumers in terms of reducing costs.

President Aoun:

The President welcomed the delegation, and stressed the importance of this conference and its objectives, especially in these difficult circumstances and the global food crisis, which requires concerted efforts to confront it and secure food and agricultural products for our peoples.

The President also asserted the need to give technical work importance for the success of this joint project in terms of the production schedule and the distribution schedule.

Moreover, President Aoun hoped to complete a comprehensive agricultural memorandum of understanding in both the plant and animal aspects and implement this project as soon as possible to achieve the benefit and interest for all, calling for the need to expand it to launch the common Arab market to facilitate import and export between countries, improve trade exchanges and address food shortages to achieve food integration, especially since international developments and the war in Ukraine have increased the negative repercussions on our region, especially in terms of food security.

Press Conference:

After the meeting, the four ministers spoke to the journalists.

Minister Hajj Hassan pointed out that President Aoun was briefed about the agricultural summit held in Beirut, about which decisions will be issued this afternoon.

Minister Hajj Hasan also explained that this summit aimed to discuss several points and topics that were agreed upon, and the positive atmosphere in presenting matters during this summit was very remarkable.

“We aspire and hope that other brother countries will join this quartet to enhance Arab food security first and facilitate import, export and transit between Arab countries secondly” Hajj Hasan said.

Then the Syrian Minister of Agriculture indicated that during the meeting with the President, the vision of the four countries was clarified on the way to deal with agricultural products among them.

“There is an integration of agricultural production with each other in terms of marketing, production and manufacturing. Therefore, our work is focused on putting in place all the necessary measures to facilitate the exchange of agricultural products and removing all obstacles to facilitate the passage of these products between these countries” Minister Qatna daid.

“It was agreed to set unified regulations for the management and marketing of the crop, and to set an agricultural calendar between these countries through which we can organize marketing and trade exchange operations, all for the benefit of the farmers and exporters, and to achieve food security in the region, which has become threatened in light of the economic and climatic changes facing the region and which have affected significantly, the decline of water and land resources, which has become a direct challenge to these countries, was necessary for coordination and cooperation to develop new integrated agricultural plans through which we can move forward and achieve the food needs of our peoples” Minister Qatna continued.

For his part, Minister Al-Khafaji, indicated that during the meeting with President Aoun, all the discussions that took place in the quadripartite meeting regarding the issue of agricultural integration, and the plan that was developed during the meeting to facilitate the trade exchange of agricultural commodities between countries, especially with Iraq, which is the largest consumer country, was developed.

The meeting tackled establishing marketing associations, facilitating the procedures for receiving the crop from farmers, and reducing the cost burden on farmers and consumers.

“It was a good opportunity to increase the horizons of agricultural cooperation and reduce the “routine” in trade exchange, in the hope that the rest of the Arab countries would join this quadripartite alliance” Al-Khalafji said.

As for the Jordanian Minister of Agriculture, he confirmed that “There was an agreement to face the challenges arising from the prolonged crisis as a result of climate change, the Corona pandemic, the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, and supply and shipping chains”.

The Jordanian Minister also pointed to the successful Jordanian experience in this field, through which issues related to the food crisis were overcome through Official frameworks (the Supreme Council for Food Security), and a strategy for food security, and there is a stock of basic foodstuffs for long periods and we have put them at the disposal of our brothers in Lebanon and all brotherly countries.

Mrs. Najat Rushdie

The President met the Deputy Special Coordinator of the United Nations in Lebanon, Najat Rushdi, on a farewell visit on the occasion of her appointment as Deputy Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Syria and her departure from Lebanon to Geneva early next week.

President Aoun thanked Mrs. Rushdie for the efforts she made during her stay in Lebanon, especially in the difficult circumstances after the explosion of the Port of Beirut, and the role she played in coordinating international aid on the one hand and the work of international and humanitarian organizations on the other hand, as well as the contacts she made with donor countries to secure their response in support of Lebanon.

The President wished Rushdie success in her new assignment.

For her side, Mrs. Rushdi thanked President Aoun for the support she received during her work in Lebanon, stressing that she will continue to take care of Lebanon wherever she goes.

Source: National News Agency