Lebanon rejects calls to resettle Syrian refugees

Syrian civilians and militants who were evacuated from northeastern Lebanon gather near buses after crossing into the rebel-held area of Al-Saan in the central Hama province, in this August 3, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2017

Lebanon rejects calls to resettle Syrian refugees

BEIRUT: Lebanon has rejected suggestions that refugees from the Syrian conflict could be permanently resettled there.
The Lebanese constitution said the country was “one for all Lebanese; and there will be no classification of people or land and there will be no settlements,” the parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri said. “The Parliament has already rejected resettlement calls several times before,” and “amending the constitution is out of question.”
Lebanon currently hosts more than 1.5 million displaced Syrians and 450,000 Palestinian refugees, earning the gratitude of US President Donald Trump in his speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
“We especially thank Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees from the Syrian conflict,” Trump said. But he continued: “We support recent agreements of the G-20 nations that will seek to host refugees as close to their home countries as possible. This is the safe, responsible and humanitarian approach.”
His remarks were viewed as suggesting that Syrian refugees could resettle permanently in Lebanon, but Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said: “No one is talking about resettlement in Lebanon; we have our constitution and our sovereignty.
“What was said at the United Nations represents a political idea and does not compel anyone to comply. There is no international resolution about this matter and there won’t be any binding resolution that would oblige us to naturalize Syrian refugees or others. There is no need for all this over-emphasis on the subject.”
Former Lebanese President Michel Sleiman called for “a plan to ensure the safe return of displaced Syrians to their country, especially now that the Syrian barrens are safe and calm.
“The Lebanese consensus is the strongest weapon for facing any fait accompli. This consensus must be upheld to ensure the safe return of Syrians to their homes.”
Lebanon’s Justice Minister Salim Jreissati said: “There will be no resettlement of any displaced person in Lebanon.” He called on “other countries to take the position that is appropriate to their sovereignty.”
Samir Al-Jisr, an MP from Al-Mustaqbal bloc, said: “Lebanon is involved in the solution for Syria and any new move will have repercussions on Lebanon; we should keep Lebanon as far as possible out of regional problems.
“There should be new solutions for displaced Syrians without burdening Lebanon on economic, social and political levels. Those who call for the normalization of relations between the Syrian and Lebanese governments in order to find a proper solution for the return of the displaced do not really want them to return to Syria.
“We cannot afford to send them to specific areas and exclude other areas due to demographic issues in Syria. The Lebanese government does not prevent anyone from returning to Syria; hundreds have already left Lebanon and returned to Syria.”


Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

Updated 15 October 2019

Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

  • Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades

ANKARA: As Ankara pressed on with its offensive in northeastern Syria amid international criticism, Washington announced some 1,000 soldiers were withdrawn from the zone.

With the US departure, the attention turns to how the regional actors, especially Turkey and Syria, will operate in their zones of influence in the war-torn country where the possible escape of Daesh fighters from prisons could result in more chaos.

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades. The PKK is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US.

But, whether some 50,000 YPG fighters will be integrated into the Syrian Army or will try to maintain their autonomy is still a matter of concern.

Mazloum Abdi, commander-in-chief of the SDF, recently wrote for Foreign Policy that the Kurds are finally ready to partner with Assad and Putin.

Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, said: “Damascus and the SDF struck a deal at the Russian base in Hmeymim to let the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) enter the Kurdish-controlled area in the northeast and deploy at the Syrian-Turkish border. The SAA is set to take control over Manbij, Kobane and Qamishli.”

However, Barmin told Arab News that a deal between Damascus and the SDF would greatly contribute to a buffer zone that Turkish President Recep Yayyip Erdogan intends to create in northern Syria, allowing Kurds to take some areas along the border without directly antagonizing Ankara. This policy, Barmin added, would be unacceptable to Moscow.

“There are now lots of moving targets and the goal of the Syrian Army — whether it will take some strategic cities or control the whole border along Turkey — is unclear for now. As Russian President Vladimir Putin is on his official visit to Saudi Arabia, his decision for Syria will be clearer when he returns home,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Barmin also noted that Russia let Erdogan operate the Adana agreement to a certain extent, under which Turkey has the right to conduct cross-border operations.

“But now, Russia would like to show Turkey its own red lines in the region,” he said.

However, Navvar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said that the Syrian regime is not capable of striking a deal without being backed by Russians, and that Moscow would not want to lose its relationship with Ankara.

“Russians always talk about the Adana agreement. We are now talking about a renewal and reactivation of the agreement with new specifications to allow Turkey to go deeper into Syrian territories. In this way, the Russians will have a bigger chance to allow the Syrian regime and Turkey to communicate. It is something that will open the diplomatic channels,” Saban said.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never ending wars will end!”

Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said that if the US is completely out of the way, Russia and Turkey will have to either agree or contest each other to take over the US territorial control in northeast Syria. He added that this might be the most crucial race in the coming weeks.

Concerning the diplomatic channels between Damascus and Ankara, Macaron thinks that the channels were and will remain open between Moscow and Ankara since they have common interests beyond Syria.

“If Turkey had no other option, it might have to settle for controlling a few border towns, but this means Erdogan can no longer effectively implement his plan to return Syrian refugees, most notably without funding from the international community. Ankara is more likely to succeed in striking such a deal with Moscow than with Washington,” Macaron told Arab News.

Many experts agree that the Syrian chessboard will be determined predominantly by Russian moves.

“Assad has no say in what will happen next, Russia is the decision maker and there is little the Syrian regime can do unless Iran forcefully intervenes to impact the Russian-Turkish dynamics in the northeast,” Macaron said.