Lebanon’s president calls on UN ‘Big Five’ to help displaced Syrians return home

Lebanese women hold placards during a protest on Saturday in the northern town of Zouk Mosbeh, calling for the departure of Syrian refugees. The writing in Arabic reads: "So that we don't lose job opportunities," "So that we don't lose security." (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2017

Lebanon’s president calls on UN ‘Big Five’ to help displaced Syrians return home

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun called on the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US — also known as the P5), the UN, the EU and the Arab League to focus on addressing the Syrian refugee crisis.
Aoun met with envoys of the P5, the EU, the UN and the Arab League on Monday and gave them written messages to their heads of state.
“It is imperative that the UN and the international community make every possible effort to provide safe conditions for the safe return of displaced Syrians to their country, especially to calm, accessible or low-tension areas, without associating this to a political solution,” he said.
Aoun added that the “heavy” burden borne by Lebanon as a result of the influx of displaced people “(would not) be tolerated by any other country.”
He also warned of “the consequences of any outbreak that may occur in Lebanon if there is no solution to the crisis in Syria and the return of displaced people to it, as its consequences will not be limited to Lebanon only, but may spill over to many countries.”
During the meeting, Aoun spoke of the political danger of the Syrian exodus saying “the longer the crisis lasts, the more it becomes a cause of internal differences.”
He called on international organizations not to issue statements to intimidate the displaced, saying that “such statements are an incitement to the displaced to remain in Lebanese territory.”
He said that safe areas exist in Syria that can accommodate some of the refugees currently in Lebanon.
“We have received (huge) numbers of displaced people, but we did not initiate the war in Syria, and whoever did does not receive any of them and bears no responsibility for them,” he said. “We did not send anyone to fight there.”
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Lebanon currently hosts 1,051,000 Syrian refugees.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, has been rallying his supporters in Lebanon and abroad in recent weeks around the need for Syrian refugees to return to their country. Bassil has previously warned of “settling” the displaced in Lebanon saying “We are racist in our belonging to Lebanon. The displaced have to return.” His comments prompted reactions from several political parties stressing the need for the “voluntary and safe return of the displaced.”
Dr. Nasser Yassin, a professor at the American University told Arab News that statements such as Bassil’s increase the tension between the Lebanese and the Syrians.
“Some politicians use this tension in the parliamentary elections,” he said, adding that some deliberately stoked negative public opinion of the Syrians, leading to violence against them.
He also questioned why Syria was not yet addressing the return of refugees to their homeland. “A safe return to Syria is questionable,” he concluded.

Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

Updated 20 June 2019

Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

  • Khalifa Haftar vows that his fighters will get rid of ‘terrorist militias’

CAIRO: A Libyan commander, whose forces are fighting to take the country’s capital of Tripoli from militias allied with a UN-backed government based there, has dismissed an initiative by its prime minister for negotiations to end the crisis.

Instead, Khalifa Haftar vowed in comments to a news website on Wednesday that his fighters would press on with the weeks-long offensive until Tripoli is rid of what he described as “terrorist militias.”

“Our military operations will not stop” until Tripoli is taken, Haftar told almarsad.co.

“The situation is excellent and I call on the Libyans to ignore rumors about our withdrawal,” Haftar said in interviews with Libyan news websites The Address and The Observer published overnight Wednesday to Thursday.

The offensive to seize the capital “will not stop before all its objectives are reached,” he said.

The campaign by Haftar’s Liberation National Army has raised fears of another bout of violence after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. Since then, the country has sunk into chaos, with rival administrations in the east and the west, and an array of forces and militias allied with either side.

On Monday, the World Health Organization reported the latest casualty tolls for the fighting in and around Tripoli, saying 691 people have been killed so far, including 41 civilians, and 4,012 wounded, 135 of them civilians.

The head of the Tripoli-based government, Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, told a news conference on Sunday he is proposing a “Libyan forum,” aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

The talks would draw up a roadmap for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held before the end of 2019, Al-Sarraj said. 

In his remarks to the news website, Haftar dismissed Al-Sarraj’s initiative and criticized him as an ineffective leader.

“Initiatives have no meaning unless they are brave and carry clear clauses that address the causes of the crisis and its very roots,” Haftar said.

Haftar has presented himself as someone able to restore stability. In recent years, his campaign against militants across Libya won him growing international support from world leaders who say they are concerned the North African country has turned into a haven for armed groups, and a major conduit for migrants bound for Europe.