Connelly, Plumbly Hail Govt. Efforts to Provide Humanitarian Aid to Refugees from Syria

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly and U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly held separate talks on Thursday with Prime Minister Najib Miqati on the flow of refugees from Syria to Lebanon.

Connelly praised “the generosity of the Lebanese people and the efforts of the government, in conjunction with international partners and organizations, to provide humanitarian assistance to the growing number of Syrian and Palestinian refugees and affected Lebanese communities.”

The ambassador welcomed the efforts of the government to better identify and assess current and potential needs to support refugees in Lebanon in coordination with the international community, announced the U.S. Embassy in a statement.

She recognized the urgent need for international assistance for the humanitarian crisis created by increased refugee flows and reiterated the U.S. commitment to respond positively in addressing the needs of Syrian refugees and the communities that host them.

Miqati and Connelly also discussed the U.S.-Lebanese bilateral relationship as well as the political and security situation in Lebanon and regional events.

The prime minister later held talks with Plumbly on the case of Palestinian refugees fleeing to Lebanon.

“It was an opportunity to exchange ideas on recent developments, particularly those related to the impact of the crisis in Syria on Lebanon,” the U.N. official said after the meeting at the Grand Serail.

On the displaced Syrians and Palestinians, he stressed: “We agreed that two things have to be highlighted: the very difficult circumstances that forced these people to leave their homes, and the humanitarian obligation to assist them until they are able to return.”

“In that regard, I again told the prime minister of the United Nations’ deep appreciation for the hospitality that the Lebanese government and people have extended to refugees during the past 20 months,” he added.

Plumbly acknowledged that this represents a very big burden for Lebanon, and “one which is likely to grow before those displaced are able to return home.”

“The United Nations agencies concerned – U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees but also World Food Program, U.N. Children's Fun (UNICEF), U.N. Development Program, and U.N. Relief and Works Agency – are dedicated to working in the closest possible fashion with the government to help it and the displaced and the communities receiving them,” he continued.

“We are standing and will stand shoulder to shoulder with Lebanon in this,” he declared.

He reiterated to the prime minister the support of the United Nations for the response plan that the government has prepared, and for the arrangements put in place in it, adding that donors are studying their responses to the government’s plan.

In addition, the United Nations announced in Geneva on Wednesday a revised response plan which will be closely coordinated with that of the government and which includes a call for a further $267 million specifically for needs in Lebanon, revealed Plumbly.

Miqati and the U.N. official also addressed security issues in Lebanon, and specifically support for the Lebanese army “whose role is vital both in implementing U.N. Security Council resolution 1701 and in ensuring security and stability across Lebanon at this time.”

“The Lebanese army is working on proposals in this regard, and in this they have strong support from the United Nations,” said Plumbly.

Miqati also held talks on refugees with the European Union's ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst, who voiced the Union's support for the Lebanese government's efforts to cater to their needs.

Tens of thousands of residents of the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus have fled since fighting erupted there between Syrian rebels and their Palestinian allies, and Palestinian factions still loyal to the Syrian regime.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said at least half of Yarmuk's population of more than 112,000 had fled the violence rocking the 2.1 square-kilometer (about one square mile) camp.

Since the weekend, more than 2,000 Palestinians from Yarmuk are estimated to have fled into Lebanon.

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