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Monday, 5 July 2004

An official visit of the President of the Republic of Lebanon and his spouse to Poland

On 5 July 2004, the President of the Republic of Lebanon, Mr Emile Lahoud and his spouse arrived on an official visit to Poland paid at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski. Toast by the President of the Republic of Poland, Mr Aleksander Kwaśniewski at the official dinner given in honour of the President of the Republic of Lebanon, Mr Emile Lahoud and his spouse: Mister President! Madame Lahoud! Ladies and Gentlemen! It is with great joy that we welcome our distinguished Lebanese guests to Poland. The present visit is a historic occasion, as this is the first time we have the honour to host the President of the Republic of Lebanon here in Warsaw. I am deeply convinced that your stay in Poland will contribute to reinforcing the amicable relations existing between our states and nations. Mr President, I still retain fond memories of my working visit in your country almost two years ago. On that occasion we discussed bilateral relations and the situation in the Middle East, and declared our will to enliven political dialogue and economic co-operation. I trust that today`s meeting, held after Poland`s accession to the European Union, will allow us to make another important step in that direction. Our countries and nations have enjoyed friendly relations since the 19th century. In 1881, a Pole, Father Maksymilian Ryłło, founded what is now the renowned St. Joseph`s University in Beirut. Lebanon was also the destination of many Polish artists and men of letters in the age of Romanticism, to mention only our great poet Juliusz Słowacki. We gratefully remember that, when our Republic was ravaged by World War II, your country, Mr President, provided safe haven to thousands of refugees who later joined the Polish army to fight on the battlefields of Northern Africa and Italy. Both our countries have had their share of hardship in recent times. Our political and economic contacts have, however, stood the test of time. As an expression of solidarity with your people the Polish Embassy in Beirut remained open even at the height of the civil war. For over 20 years Polish troops have been serving as UN peacekeepers on Lebanese soil. Thanks to the friendly reception they have been given by the authorities and people of Lebanon, they are able to perform their mission in furtherance of the Middle Eastern peace process. Mr President! Ladies and Gentlemen! I am pleased that the Republic of Lebanon has greeted Poland`s involvement in Iraq with understanding. We want our efforts to serve the restoration of stability and security in Iraq so that its people might fully benefit from the fruits of their regained freedom and build the prosperity of their country in peace. Given her tradition of friendship with the Arab countries Poland is interested in further improving her partnership with the entire Middle Eastern region. As an active participant in efforts towards resolving the conflicts in the region we support the immediate return to the peace process through, for instance, implementation of the "road map” for the Middle East. We greatly appreciate the proposal to this end adopted by the League of Arab States in 2002 in Beirut, and reiterated at this year`s May summit in Tunis. The initiative promises to be an important element in the normalisation of relations in the region, which will help rebuild the trust necessary to ensure peaceful co-existence. We believe that Poland as a member of the EU will become an increasingly attractive partner for the Mediterranean countries associated with the Union. In the process of expanding our co-operation with the EU member states we shall not turn our backs on our traditional partners. On the contrary, we are committed to developing contacts between the European Union and the Arab States, especially within the Mediterranean Dialogue framework. I am convinced that we will be able to find new forms of co-operation between Poland and Lebanon. We have a great deal to offer each other in the area of business, trade and tourism. We would also like our mutual relations to embrace cultural and academic exchange, for there is no better way to bring nations closer together than by encouraging direct contacts and ties between people. Mister President! Ladies and Gentlemen! I welcome the thought that your visit to Poland and the enlivened political dialogue it has brought will benefit our countries and our continents. I would like to wish you and all your countrymen much success in the development of your beautiful country. Allow me to reassert our will to co-operate as partners in achieving this goal and to offer this toast: to the health of President Lahoud, Madame Lahoud and all our guests; to the prosperity of Lebanon and the Lebanese people; to friendship and further fruitful contacts between our states and nations!
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