Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Sierra Leone’s Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh opened a new office in Beirut’s Saifi area for the African country’s honorary consulate Monday.

Victor Foh-Beirut

“I am very happy to welcome in Lebanon Sierra Leone’s high-level delegation on the occasion of its official visit to our country, reflecting the depth and strength of bilateral relations,” Bassil said in a speech after cutting the opening ribbon.

“The opening of the new headquarters of Sierra Leone’s honorary consulate in Beirut constitutes an additional symbol of friendship between our two states and peoples.”

Bassil highlighted some aspects of similarity between the two countries, including “diversity which is one of the landmarks characterized by our two societies.”

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“Our people’s aspirations for all kinds of freedom are another similar aspect that must be built on,” Bassil said addressing Foh. “Our two countries share the capability to stand fast in the face of difficulties and challenges.”

Bassil said Lebanon looked forward to build on “these common values” to further boost relations between the two countries and increase bilateral trade. Thousands of Lebanese work in Sierra Leone.

For his part, Foh hailed the opening of his country’s consulate in Lebanon as “a turning point in the long history of bilateral relations.”

“We share a lot of bitter and sweet experiences at the political, cultural and humanitarian levels,” he said. “The peoples of the two countries follow the Christian and Muslim religions. We have suffered from colonialism and overcome wars. On its heyday, Lebanon’s label, due to its economic strength and diversity, was the Switzerland of the East, and attracted tourists and was known as the Paris of the East.”

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“In our country’s heyday, and due to our distinctive academic sector, Sierra Leone was referred to as the Athens of West Africa. Today, our two countries are working hard to preserve peace and economic progress and improve their standing in the world,” Foh added.

The event was also attended by Sierra Leone’s ministers of Foreign Affairs, Telecommunications and Information. Bassil later met at the Foreign Ministry with his Sierra Leone counterpart Samura Kamara, discussing bilateral relations, the National News Agency reported.

The honorary consulate was last in the news in January when it denied reports Sierra Leone had agreed to accept Lebanon’s garbage.