Pompeo to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan on first trip: Spokeswoman

Newly sworn in US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head from this week's NATO meeting in Brussels directly on to high level talks in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. (AP)
Updated 26 April 2018
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Pompeo to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan on first trip: Spokeswoman

WASHINGTON: Newly sworn in US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head from this week's NATO meeting in Brussels directly on to high level talks in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, his spokeswoman said.

Speaking on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews in front of the secretary's government jet as he arrived from his Supreme Court swearing-in, Heather Nauert said the stops were chosen to reflect their "importance as key allies and partners in the region."

Pompeo picked those three Middle East stops “because of all that is going on,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

Iran is likely to be on the agenda on the Middle East leg of his trip. Trump will decide by May 12 whether to restore U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran, which would be a severe blow to the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and six major powers.

Pompeo is to meet with Saudi Arabia's King Salman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordanian King Abdullah.


Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 51 min 21 sec ago
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Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon
  • Jan Kubis: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”