Hariri: Lebanon will not force Syrian refugees to return

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri gestures during a donor conference in Beirut, Lebanon on Thursday. (REUTERS)
Updated 03 February 2018

Hariri: Lebanon will not force Syrian refugees to return

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Thursday that Lebanon would not force refugees to return to Syria but called for more international help in dealing with the refugee crisis.
More than a million Syrians fled into neighboring Lebanon after war broke out in their country in 2011 and now account for about a quarter of its population.
As the Syrian regime has gained control over more territory, and as fighting has ended in more parts of Syria, some Lebanese politicians have called for Syrian refugees to return.
“My government’s position is very clear. Nobody’s going to force anyone to go back if they don’t want to go back,” Hariri said.
In a speech at a donor conference in Beirut calling for $2.68 billion in humanitarian aid for the crisis this year, Hariri warned that refugees would try to move to other countries if there was not enough support for them in Lebanon.
“We need more from the international community because we are doing a public service for the international community. Otherwise, these people, if we do not do more, if you do not do more, they will seek refuge somewhere else,” he said.
Separately, at least 20 civilians were killed Thursday in Syrian regime’s airstrikes on opposition-held territory in the country’s north, a war monitor said.
Elsewhere three children were reported killed in artillery strikes on opposition-held Eastern Ghouta, while state news agency SANA said seven people died in apparent retaliatory shelling of nearby regime-held Damascus.
The aerial bombardments in the north pounded several areas in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, where regime troops are waging a Russian-backed assault against opposition fighters and radicals.
“Regime raids hit two villages in the south of Aleppo province, killing 15 civilians,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In the neighboring province of Idlib, regime airstrikes killed five civilians in the town of Saraqeb, said the observatory, a Britain-based war monitor.
That broad region is held by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which is dominated by Al-Qaeda’s one-time affiliate in Syria.
Regime troops launched a ferocious offensive in late December to retake parts of Idlib and secure a key road leading from Aleppo south to the capital. Regime forces have made key gains, recapturing the Abu Duhur military airport and dozens of nearby villages.
Since it erupted in 2011, Syria’s conflict has morphed from a protest movement into a brutal and complex war that has left 340,000 people dead.
In an attempt to bring an end to the fighting, backers of opposing sides last year agreed to four “de-escalation” zones in the country.
Idlib makes up part of one zone. The other three are in Syria’s south, the central province of Homs, and the area of Eastern Ghouta, an opposition enclave near Damascus.


Lebanon struggles to restore normality amid protests

Anti-government protesters shout slogans against the Lebanese government in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. (AP)
Updated 3 min 27 sec ago

Lebanon struggles to restore normality amid protests

  • The ISG urged Lebanese authorities to address people’s complaints, demanding “structural reforms and responsible and acceptable social changes that truly curb corruption and waste, away from sectarianism

BEIRUT: Lebanese banks will remain closed in light of nationwide protests for the fifth consecutive day, the Association of Banks in Lebanon announced.
However, Banque du Liban, the country’s central bank, on Tuesday provided banks with money from their deposits in order to meet citizens’ needs.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Akram Chehayeb ordered all schools and universities to resume classes on Wednesday “in order to preserve the interests of students and to preserve the academic year.”
Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with the International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon, which includes envoys from the US, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, the EU, China and the Arab League, as well as the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis.
The ISG urged Lebanese authorities to address people’s complaints, demanding “structural reforms and responsible and acceptable social changes that truly curb corruption and waste, away from sectarianism.”
Such changes, it said, should “ensure proper governance and full accountability, and lead to sustainable and stable growth.”

FASTFACT

International Support Group urges govt to implement ‘structural reforms.’

Kubis said Hariri “committed that the government and its legitimate security forces will continue to protect civilians who are demonstrating peacefully, and will take appropriate measures against any possible violent incitement, to protect public and private property and institutions, and the people’s right to peacefully express their views.”
On behalf of the ISG, Kubis urged “officials and political actors in Lebanon to listen to the legitimate demands of the people, work with them on solutions, apply them, and refrain from any statements and acts that could inflame tensions and incite confrontation and violence.”
After meeting Hariri, Kuwait’s ambassador to Lebanon, Abdel Aal Al-Kinai, said: “Now is not the time to speak but to act.”