The Pine Palace opened its doors to the public on Sunday, within the framework of the "European Days of Heritage" event, where visitors toured its large dining hall, the large salon, hallway, and music salon, the office of the Ambassador, the Ottoman Salon, and the space above the entrance staircase and the monument of the dead.

"The doors of the Pine Palace were opened to the Lebanese public for the third year in a row, in celebration of the European Heritage Days," said French Ambassador Bruno Foucher in an interview with reporters during the visit.

"This gesture has been a great success previously, for it was in this Palace that the State of Greater Lebanon was declared on September 1, 1920," he added.

"This Palace is somewhat the home of the Lebanese and part of their history, and we preserve it as it hosts many events, including the celebration of the French National Day on July 14, the largest diplomatic reception in the city...We wished to open the doors of this Palace to anyone who wants to visit it, for it is very beautiful. It is considered as one of the most beautiful houses in Beirut. It was renewed and inaugurated by the late President Jacques Chirac on May 30, 1998, after the civil war which almost completely destroyed it," explained Foucher.

Asked about France's contribution to the celebration of the Centennial of Greater Lebanon and whether celebrations will be held at the Pine Palace, Foucher said: "We will definitely participate. There is a Lebanese Centennial Committee headed by Minister Salim Jreissati, and we will meet with him to see how we will organize the celebrations throughout the year. There will be a significant event in this Palace on the first of September next year, and this is what I wish for, with the participation of a high-ranking French figure."

He added: "There will be important events in Lebanon and in France. We intend to involve a number of Lebanese military units in the military parade on July 14, 2020 in Paris, as it takes place every year and usually one or more countries partake in this event."

Regarding his message to the Lebanese people on the eve of this Centenary, the French Ambassador said: "For one hundred years Lebanon has existed, and for a hundred years France has been related to this country, and it has expressed on several occasions this connection...There is a deep relationship in the political, economic and cultural fields, but the deeper and more important links are in the emotional domain, all of which draw on our history that we have built together."

Responding to another question over the Cedar Conference, Foucher considered that it is going as expected, noting that Prime Minister Saad Hariri's recent visit to Paris and what he said to the media prove that things are moving in the right direction.

Referring to the reform steps undertaken by the Lebanese government thus far, the French diplomat said: "There are steps taken in response to those who say that nothing has been achieved. In the field of energy, things are going in the right direction. There is a budget for 2019 and if it is not ideal, it atleast exists. The 2020 budget must now be approved and Lebanon must send positive signals abroad."

Source: National News Agency