Bassil, Zasypkin conclude Russian negotiations

Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Gebran Bassil, met on Thursday with Russian Ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, with whom he concluded the ongoing Russian negotiations, especially concerning the Russian initiative to help facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.

"In continuation of the negotiations that had taken place between Minister Bassil and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow, and in light of the current situation in the region, we have tackled regional and international issues, as well as Lebanese-Russian bilateral relations," Zasypkin said in the wake of his meeting with Bassil.

He went on to say that talks had majorly touched on the return of Syrian refugees to their country and on the establishment of a Commission for this purpose.

"What is mostly important is to continue daily efforts to secure the return of refugees to safe zones in Syria. I have highlighted the need for Syrian-Lebanese communication in this area for the benefit of the peoples of both countries," the Russian diplomat added.

Zasypkin also indicated that he had discussed with Bassil an array of issues involving bilateral cooperation between Russia and Lebanon in the economic fields. He also mentioned Bassil's thoughts on the establishment of "a region of communication and dialogue among religions and civilizations in the Oreint", deeming Lebanon a platform for economic activities, especially in the field of reconstruction in Syria and throughout the region.

As for the possibility of freezing the Russian initiative -- due to that fact that it has not received the support of the international community, namely that of the US -- the Russian diplomat said: "This initiative is a comprehensive and open strategy for all to participate; it doesn't only aim to highlight the Russian role. The most important is Syria's decision, position, and efforts."

Zasypkin added that others, including Russia, were only helping. "There are those who have supported this initiative since its launch. Concerning the US stance vis-a-vis this initiative, we hope that it would eventually support it; however, if the US decides to echo a negative position concerning the initiative, this does not mean that we have to abandon it. This will not happen."

The Russian diplomat anticipated the formation of a committee within the coming few days, revealing that Minister Bassil had informed him about the completion of all the paperwork involving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs -- whilst contacts remained in progress with other sides.

Separately, Minister Bassil met with the Director-General of the Lebanese General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim. The pair also dwelt on the Russian initiative to help facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their country.

Acting United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL), Pernille Dahler Kardel, also had her share of talks with Minister Bassil. Discussions between the pair featured high on preparations underway for the UN General Assembly meeting in New York in September.

"We have discussed the need to fully implement International Security Council resolution #1701, and to extend the mandate of the international forces operating in south Lebanon "UNIFIL"," Kardel said.

Source: National News Agency