Speech of the LAF Commander Gen Joseph Aoun on the occasion of receiving boats at the Navy

Speech of the LAF Commander Gen Joseph Aoun on the occasion of receiving boats at the Navy

| Friday 23 February 2024

Her Excellency U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Ms. Lisa Johnson, 

Director General of Land and Maritime Transport, Dr. Ahmad Tamer

Esteemed defense Attachés and audience

We meet today at the Beirut Naval Base to receive three patrol boats and four quick reaction boats, donated by the United States of America. These boats will enhance the capabilities of the Navy, enabling them to execute their entrusted missions amidst the myriad challenges they face, particularly in combating illegal immigration across the sea and ensuring the utmost security for future oil platforms.

This donation is yet another proof of the United States’ continuous interest and support to the LAF, as well as other nations and friend Armed Forces. It reaffirms their commitment towards Lebanon's security and stability amidst a series of political, economic, and social crises, in addition to the ongoing war in the South and the grave repercussions it has had on the entirety of Lebanon.

Undoubtedly, Lebanon has been considered a bridge connecting the West to the East due to its geographic location and expansive maritime coastline, which positioned the country as a pathway for smuggling and illegal immigration to Europe. Therefore, the LAF’s Naval forces play a crucial role in protecting Lebanon’s maritime borders and intercepting all forms of illegal activities. The detainment of 720 individuals that were planning to illegally immigrate to Europe between 2022 and 2023, is a solid proof to the Navy's efforts in monitoring and tracking boats carrying illegal immigrants of diverse nationalities, aiming to intercept and detain them due to the inherent risks to their lives and the destinations they intend to reach, as well as their financial exploitation by smuggling networks. 

Esteemed audience, 

In the last few years, the LAF’s Navy has witnessed a significant advancement, owing to the ongoing support of friend countries notably the United States of America, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and France, through training and provision of military equipment, as well as the unwavering determination and commitment of naval personnel to confront challenges and enhance their capabilities, which has enabled Lebanon to become a member of the International Hydrographic Organization, also known as the IHO. This notable accomplishment is a direct result of the naval forces' exceptional expertise in hydrographic operations, particularly in the wake of the devastating Beirut port explosion. Lebanon is now able to independently produce its own marine charts, enabling the seamless drafting of essential studies crucial for the demarcation of maritime borders with neighboring countries.

Furthermore, the naval forces have established a new Navy school for training maritime crews and ensuring the readiness of operational personnel in line with international laws and standards. Additionally, they have established a research and rescue center, equipped with fixed and mobile drones and radars, and operational rooms across multiple areas. The Navy will also witness the construction of new docks and the inauguration of two workshops in Beirut and Tripoli, dedicated to maintaining and repairing ships. It is also crucial to highlight the ongoing cooperation and coordination with the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force.

This advancement would not have been possible without the support of friend countries and armies, led by the United States of America, the foremost supporter of the LAF.

The current challenges to our naval forces fall into several broad areas: protecting Lebanon's national waters, intercepting smuggling and illegal activities, protecting vital interests along the coast, ensuring a freedom of navigation in the territorial waters and securing, in the future, the oil and gas platforms, which is a new task that may be assigned to them, requiring the development of their military and technical capabilities and combating oil pollution in the Mediterranean Sea, as it poses a threat to all surrounding countries.

 Esteemed Audience, 

Enforcing a complete control of the maritime borders requires specific human and military capacities, such as acquiring boats of different sizes capable of carrying out various tasks, securing, monitoring and surveillance equipment, building the proper bases and needed infrastructure along the coast to ensure the ability to completely control the maritime borders.

The exceptional economic situation currently experienced in Lebanon has had a negative impact on the Armed Forces, which is now confronted with significant challenges. Maintaining security and stability amidst the deterioration of the socio-economic situation requires tremendous effort from the military institution, amidst the suffering of its personnel from the repercussions of the economic crisis. Nevertheless, they carry out their duties with great dedication and conviction, performing their duties to the fullest, whether by land, sea or air. 

Here I would like to commend the officers of the Navy personnel for their unwavering dedication in protecting the maritime borders and combating illegal immigration at sea, despite the numerous challenges and limited resources.

Esteemed Audience, 

I would like to thank the United States of America for their ongoing support to the army through training and provision of military equipment, as well as the financial support for its personnel for seven months. We also extend our gratitude to all the friend countries and armies for the support provided to the LAF, especially the trust they place in us, recognizing it as Lebanon’s backbone and the sole guarantor of security and stability. I am hopeful that our cooperation will continue in the future, serving our shared goals and the best interests of all our countries.

Finally, we will remain ready to face any challenges, no matter the risks, because protecting Lebanon, its security, borders, and resources, is our top priority and sacred duty. Every developmental initiative we undertake in the naval forces, as well as in other army units, is dedicated to serving our nation.

Thank You

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