Aoun to Grandi: To separate return of displaced people from political solution to Syrian crisis

President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, welcomed this Friday at the Baabda Palace the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and called upon the UNHCR to play a greater role in facilitating the safe return of displaced Syrians in Lebanon to their country, especially to the safe Syrian areas where the situation is now stable, based on the assertions of all those concerned with the Syrian affairs, including the UNHCR itself.

The latter has conducted a survey which showed that 735,500 Syrians residing in Lebanon have been, in fact, displaced from areas in Syria that are now safe.

Aoun asserted that "Lebanon will continue to organize the gradual return of displaced people who wish to do so.

International organizations should provide assistance to the returnees in their towns and villages or safe places in Syria where they could reside," he added.

Denying any pressure by the Lebanese authorities for the return of groups of displaced persons, the President stressed that "this return was voluntary."

"We are concerned about any link between the return of displaced people and the political solution to the Syrian crisis," he went on to say, recalling two causes that remain without a political solution: the first being the Palestinian cause, which is 70 years old, (...) and the second being the Cyprus cause, which is 44 years old..."

Aoun stressed that Lebanon has supported the Russian initiative to repatriate the displaced Syrians, and said he is "following up with the concerned parties on the practical details that bring about a safe return because, except for the security situation affecting the lives of the displaced, there should be no impediment to returning to their country and gradually resuming their normal lives and contributing to the reconstruction of their country."

Grandi, in turn, briefed President Aoun on the outcomes of his visit to Syria and his talks with Syrian officials over the general situation and UNHCR's assistance to Syrians who were forced to move from their original places of residence to safer areas.

The UNHCR official also tackled the work of the Commission in Lebanon, expressing his understanding of the position of the President of the Republic, on the issue of safe return of displaced Syrians, and explaining the UNHCR's views thereon.

Source: National News Agency