Russia, Lebanon discuss Syria refugee return plan

Syrian children ride a truck carrying their personal belongings at a Lebanese army checkpoint in Wadi Hmeid in the Bekaa valley, after leaving the village of Arsal to return to their homes in Syria's Qalamoun region on July 23, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2018

Russia, Lebanon discuss Syria refugee return plan

  • Lebanon hoped the Kremlin’s initiative would tackle what it called a “displacement crisis”
  • UNHCR says there are about a million Syrians in Lebanon, around a quarter of its population

BEIRUT: Russia is talking to Lebanon about Moscow’s plans for the mass return home of Syrian refugees, the Lebanese prime minister’s office said on Tuesday, adding Lebanon hoped the Kremlin’s initiative would tackle what it called a “displacement crisis.”
The UN refugee agency UNHCR says there are about a million Syrians in Lebanon, around a quarter of its population. The Lebanese government puts the number at 1.5 million.
Russia last week said it had set up the Center for the Reception, Allocation and Accommodation of Refugees to help hundreds of thousands of refugees return home from abroad.
Prime Minister-designate Saad Al-Hariri discussed Russia’s plans with officials from the Russian embassy to Beirut on Tuesday. Later this week Russian President Vladimir Putin will send a special representative to Beirut alongside the deputy foreign minister and a defense ministry official to continue talks, Hariri’s office said.
“(Hariri) is looking forward to the roadmap prepared by the Russian Defense Ministry, hoping that coordination with the US administration, the United Nations and other concerned parties will form a serious effort to address the displacement crisis,” his office said.
Syria’s war has killed an estimated half a million people, driven some 5.6 million people out of the country and displaced around 6.6 million within it.
As the Syrian army, backed by Iran and Russia, has recovered more territory, some Lebanese officials have stepped up calls for refugees to leave for parts of Syria where violence died down.
UN officials and foreign donor states to Lebanon have said conditions for returns are not yet fulfilled in Syria, but in recent weeks Lebanese authorities have facilitated the return of hundreds of Syrians from the Lebanese border region of Arsal.
One such group of hundreds departed for Syria on Monday.
US President Donald Trump and Putin discussed the return of refugees to Syria last Monday, and Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had sent Washington a proposal for drawing up a joint action plan to bring refugees back to the places they lived before the war broke out in 2011.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the proposals include setting up a Russian-US-Jordanian monitoring group in Amman and a similar group in Lebanon. It said over 1.7 million Syrian refugees would be able to return to Syria in the near future.


Iran says tanker, its oil pursed by US sold to unnamed buyer

Updated 41 sec ago

Iran says tanker, its oil pursed by US sold to unnamed buyer

  • The tanker was previously heading to Greece’s Kalamata
  • It was supposed to dock at Turkey’s Mersin port

TEHRAN/ISTANBUL: An Iranian government spokesman said an oil tanker pursued by the US has been sold to an unnamed buyer, along with its 2.1 million barrels of crude oil.
Ali Rabiei made the announcement at news conference on Monday in Tehran. He says the ship’s buyer will decide on the tanker’s ultimate destination.

Earlier on Monday, Refinitiv Eikon data showed the tanker is no longer recorded as heading for Turkey, after it switched its destination over the weekend.

The vessel, fully laden with oil, had previously been heading to the port of Kalamata in southern Greece but Greece had said it would not offer any facilities to the tanker.
Shipping data on Saturday had then indicated the vessel was to dock at the southern Turkish port of Mersin on Aug. 31.
On Monday, Refinitiv Eikon data did not specify any destination for the Adrian Darya. Its location is currently south of mainland Greece, west of the island of Crete.
The Adrian Darya, formerly called Grace 1, was released in mid-August from detention off Gibraltar after a five-week standoff over whether it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.
The United States, which says the tanker is controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, deemed a terrorist group by Washington, has told countries in the region not to assist it.