President Michael D Higgins has said Ireland stands ready to support efforts by the Lebanese government to create a vibrant economy compatible with climate change, sustainability and social cohesion.

He said these elements were necessary to ensure long-term stability in Lebanon.

President Higgins was speaking the start of a three-day official visit to Lebanon, where he was greeted this afternoon by President of Lebanon, General Michel Aoun, at the Presidential Palace in Beirut.

"We must look for solutions to problems that have endured far too long in this region," President Higgins said.

"Ireland is keen to support to the fullest extent possible the efforts of the Lebanese Government to create a vibrant economy which will will be compatible with efforts to address climate change, ensure sustainability and provide the social cohesion that is required for long-term stability."

The President paid tribute to the ongoing contribution of Irish peacekeeping forces in Lebanon over 60 years and said Ireland would continue to support peace efforts in the country.

"The fact that 46 Irish soldiers have died in this mission adds a very poignant bond between our Defence Forces and this land.

"We will continuing with our support for Lebanon and we will continue with our support for peacekeeping."

Referring to the refugee crisis in Lebanon, President Higgins highlighted Ireland’s contribution to humanitarian aid initiatives which is administered through non-governmental organisations, the United Nations Lebanon Humanitarian Fund and the World Food Programme.

"Ireland has contributed more in humanitarian aid to the crisis in Syria and the region than to any other single crisis. In addition, Ireland has offered refuge to almost 1,700 Syrians who first sought asylum in Lebanon and we will expect shortly another 350 or so."

President Higgins also emphasised the importance of the Lebanese diaspora and how, like the Irish experience, it can help to inspire those at home.

"We have seen everywhere the spirit of enterprise and innovation of the Lebanese diaspora which surely can be replicated here at home."

"Ireland stands ready to share its own experience of economic development, including through harnessing the talents and experience of the diaspora."

President Higgins also thanked President Aoun for Lebanon's commitment to support Ireland’s candidature for the UN Security Council in 2021-2022 and said that reliance on an international rules-based order was essential for smaller countries.

He also referred to the shared experience of two small countries with small populations, which have experienced internal strife, colonisation and the dispersal of their people.

President Higgins is accompanied on the visit by his wife Sabina, and the Government is represented by Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Keogh.