by Salah Takieddine
BEIRUT, May 10 (Xinhua) -- Lebanon's Culture Minister Ghattas Khouri commended the Chinese leadership for launching the Belt and Road Initiative, saying "it will boost the level of economical, cultural and social exchange between the participant countries."
In a special interview with Xinhua, Khouri said that the openness on the countries that historically constituted a part of the Silk Road "is in the interest of these countries in rebuilding a vital road that once was a way of communication and commercial, cultural and social exchange."
The Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economical Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, was brought up by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 with an aim to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.
Khouri, who will head a Lebanon's delegation to participate the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing on May 14-15, stressed the importance of exchanging views about the "interrelated development that rebuilding the Silk Road by land and sea with modern technologies will open new horizons."
He revealed that Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri handed him an economical file with a letter to his Chinese counterpart that stresses "the will to consolidate the mutual relations and exchanges in the business, financial and commercial fields."
He added "we have already had very strong relations with China and are willing to develop these relations, and we are part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and we hope it will succeed and expand."
Khouri said Lebanon is facing the crisis "due to hosting more than 1.5 million refugees, which created huge burdens on service, economic and security levels," expressing hope to see "more Chinese support to Lebanon to face this crisis."
Khouri considered Lebanon to be a platform for the reconstruction of Syria after the end of its civil war, pointing to the vicinity of the northern port city of Tripoli, the Lebanon's second largest city.
On the cultural level, Khouri said "we have an excellent relation with China and are continuously in contact with its embassy in Beirut."
He expressed hope that China would help Lebanon to build a new conservatory in north of Beirut.
He said that a Chinese delegation has visited Lebanon and inspected the proposed site for the project, and it will be further discussed later this month.
Khouri revealed that Lebanon and China will sign on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing a memorandum of understanding on the executive program of the cultural exchange agreement.
"We will take the opportunity of visiting China to develop our relations and meet friends, who are working in the cultural field, to increase our cooperation and exchange experiences," he said.
Khouri suggested promoting cultural tourism between the two countries, saying that Lebanon "stores archeological remains of various and different civilizations, from the Phoenicians to Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans and French."