Naharnet

Lavrov, Bassil Agree to Put Refugee Repatriation Plan into 'Action'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Russia “rejects any foreign intervention in Lebanon,” stating during a joint press conference with caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil that they have discussed a Russian plan to repatriate Syrian refugees in Lebanon back to their homeland.

“Russia and Lebanon stand on the same page regarding the repatriation of refugees,” Lavrov said, noting that he and Bassil have discussed the file during their meeting in Moscow.

He stressed that “Lebanon should not become a hostage to Syria's refugee problem.”

“The US is only interested in reconstructing parts of Syria where opposition is active,” added Lavrov, noting that “Russia will work with Lebanon to facilitate return of Syrians to their country.”

“Stability in Lebanon is the basis for the balance in the region,” he emphasized.

Lavrov also criticized recent comments by Filippo Grandi, the head of the U.N. refugee agency, who said last week that it was too soon to talk about the mass repatriation of the more than 5 million Syrian refugees. Lavrov said the UNHCR should not be a "subsidiary of a group of Western countries."

Lavrov also charged that al-Qaida militants located near al-Tanf in southeastern Syria, where U.S. military advisers are based, have launched raids intended to prevent refugees from coming back from Jordan.

For his part, Bassil said he discussed with Lavrov “ways to put the Russian initiative on the return of displaced Syrians into action. Lebanon counts on the Russian plan.”

“Direct channels between foreign ministries of Lebanon and Russia will be opened to implement the plan,” he added.

"Lebanon supports the quick and safe return of Syrian refugees without any link to a political solution," Bassil said. "The circumstances in Syria have changed and many areas are safe, and for that reason there is no reason for the refugees to stay," Bassil went on to say.

Turning to Lebanon’s role when Syria starts its reconstruction, he said: “Lebanon should be the platform for the reconstruction of Syria. Strategic cooperation between the two countries is necessary in this process.”

Source: Naharnet, Associated Press


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