Report: Pompeo Says Refugee Return Premature, U.S. Rejects Naturalization

The time for returning Syrian refugees to their country has not come yet and the United States is not seeking to naturalize them in the neighboring countries, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly said during his visit to Lebanon.

“The Syrian refugee return must be safe and voluntary, in line with the U.N. Charter which we should respect and abide by in dealing with this file,” politicians who met Pompeo during a dinner hosted by MP Michel Mouawad quoted the U.S. official as saying.

“But we will not be an obstacle in the way of voluntary return from Lebanon by refugees willing to do so, because we understand the financial burdens that it is shouldering as a result of hosting them, despite the international community’s support,” the politicians quoted Pompeo as saying in remarks to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper published Monday.

“The time for a safe and voluntary return has not come yet and its obligatory gateway lies in finding a political solution to the war in Syria, and accordingly it is unacceptable to explain our stance in a way that we are turning a blind eye to their naturalization in Lebanon, seeing as this is something rejected,” the top U.S. diplomat was quoted as saying.

“We don’t intend to undermine the special characteristics of this country, which cannot withstand any flaw in the sectarian balance,” Pompeo added, according to the Lebanese politicians.

In an interview with Lebanon’s MTV, Pompeo said Saturday that the possibility of coordinating with Damascus on returning the refugees is “a decision for the Lebanese leaders to make.”

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