Lebanon calls for separating Syrian refugees’ issue from politics

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for “Germany’s help in supporting Lebanon’s position that the Syrian refugees should return to the safe areas in Syria,” stressing the need to separate that return from a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

“If the solution is delayed and the balance of power is altered, who could then guarantee the return of the displaced to their country?” Aoun asked, referring to two previous, somehow similar, experiences for Lebanon “the unresolved Cyprus crisis (…) and the Palestinian cause which, 70 years later, still awaits a political solution” Aoun was quoted by the official National News Agency (NNA) as saying to Merkel during their today’s encounter at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, just southeast of Beirut.

President Aoun said that “Lebanon has borne so much on various levels, as a result of the Syrian displacement. The number of displaced is almost one million 800 thousand, and this is beyond our ability to bear,” noting that “international aid is not enough compared to the losses suffered by Lebanon.” “However, we continue to provide support at a time of towering unemployment rate, especially among the younger generation.” Referring to Lebanese-German relations, Aoun stressed “the need to develop ties in all fields, especially since Germany is the fifth economic partner for Lebanon.” He uttered appreciation for Germany’s support to the Lebanese armed forces, praising “the German contribution within UNIFIL’s (peacekeeping) naval force.” The President thanked Germany for the positive attitude and its contribution to the success of the Rome II conferences aimed to support the armed forces, and the Cedre Conference devoted for supporting the Lebanese economy.” He praised the “ongoing cooperation between Lebanese and German businessmen,” highlighting today’s “economic meeting which would provide suitable opportunities for bolstering economic relations between the two countries and facilitating the entry of Lebanese products into European markets.” He also encouraged the establishment of a joint Lebanese-German chamber of commerce and the signing of cooperation agreements between the two countries.

For her part, Merkel stressed her country’s desire to “continue to assist Lebanon in various fields and help it face the difficulties and challenges that lie ahead.” “Germany will continue to provide humanitarian aid to Lebanon and help alleviate the suffering of displaced Syrians,” Merkel said, adding that the presence of a delegation of German businessmen with her in Lebanon “underscores the desire to cooperate in the fields of economy, energy, waste and trade.” “It has thus been agreed to establish a branch for the German chamber of commerce here in Lebanon,” she confirmed.

Merkel maintained “continued support to the decisions of the Cedre Conference,” and uttered understanding of the Lebanese position vis-a-vis the displaced Syrians.

Having “discussed their conditions with a UN official, along with the hindrances to their return,” Merkel said “Germany will work on providing assistance in that regard,” stressing that “a political solution would contribute greatly to speeding up the resolving of the displaced people’s file.

Source: Kuwait News Agency