The 2015 Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference in Beirut
BEIRUT: Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil praised the accomplishments of the diaspora at the opening of a national conference for Lebanese expatriates Thursday. However, the launch of the event comes amid reports of internal divisions in the ministry. “Some have protected our Lebanese identity in their subconscious, heart, mind, memory, language, identity, or land,” Bassil said at the second annual Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference.
The conference brought together more than 1,100 Lebanese expatriates from 73 countries.
“We preserved our Lebanese identity in our blood, [our] roots … we can’t lose our Lebanese identity or allow anyone to deny it or make us lose it,” Bassil said.
“We have to strengthen it with citizenship, land and language.”
Bassil told the audience there was “no Lebanon without you and no Lebanon without us” and said that members of the diaspora could strengthen their Lebanese identity and ties to their home country, without affecting their relationship with the nation they now call home.
The event will continue through Saturday at the Hilton Habtoor Grand Hotel in Sin al-Fil, and will be attended by various Lebanese officials and foreign ambassadors.
But according to media reports, there has been confusion and division within the Foreign Ministry, with some implying that Bassil has gone beyond his jurisdiction with his handling of the conference. News outlets have reported that given the financial implications of the event, some believe its budget and organization should have been provided and overseen by the government.
Bassil has instead funded the conference privately through contributions from the expat community, without a decree or mandate from the Cabinet.
The conference attracted similar controversy last year on the issue.