Aoun Slams 'Veiled Naturalization' Call in U.N.-EU Statement
President Michel Aoun on Thursday said he rejects a U.N.-EU joint statement issued during Wednesday's “Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”, noting that it contained a call for a “veiled naturalization” of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“The content of this statement contradicts with the Constitution and with my oath of office,” Aoun said in a press release.
“It subjects my homeland to danger because it calls for a veiled naturalization of displaced Syrians in Lebanon,” the president added.
He said he especially rejects the terms “voluntary repatriation”, “temporary” evacuation, “the choice to stay” and “integration into labor markets”.
“We emphasize that the only sustainable solution to the Syrian displacement crisis in Lebanon is the safe and dignified return of displaced Syrians to inhabitable areas inside Syria, while respecting the principle of non-refoulement, especially that security has been restored in several Syrian regions,” Aoun added.
He underlined that “it is unacceptable to link the return of the displaced to the political solution in Syria or to reconstruction efforts.”
“Lebanon insists on a political solution for Syria and on restoring its stability in a manner that preserves its unity and ends the suffering of its people,” Aoun went on to say.
The declaration of the co-chairs of the Brussels conference -- the U.N. and the EU -- said “the Conference stressed the need to ensure that any evacuation of civilians must be safe, informed, temporary, voluntary in nature and a solution of last resort including the destination of their choice, the right to return and the choice to stay.”
“Participants agreed that present conditions are not conducive for voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity... Conditions for returns, as defined by the UNHCR and according to international refugee law standards, are not yet fulfilled. Any organized return should be voluntary and in safety and dignity,” the statement said.
And while acknowledging that the countries of the region “continue to face enormous humanitarian challenges,” the Conference agreed that “it remains critical to support health and education, economic development, job creation and integration into labor markets, for both host communities and refugees.”
Almost one million Syrians are registered as refugees in Lebanon, though many expect the real number is much higher.
Syria's war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.