Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri received today at the Center House the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and the accompanying delegation, in the presence of the Minister of State for Displaced Affairs in the Caretaker government Muin Merehbi and Hariri's adviser Nadim Mounla.
After the meeting, Grandi said:
"I just met with Prime Minister Hariri and his team and we discussed the situation of the Syrian refugees.
As you know, I just arrived from a visit to Syria where I had similar discussions as I have had in the past with the government of Syria on the same matter. As the situation evolves in Syria, it is important to consider what are the perspectives and the future of the situation. UNHCR has always been very clear, and I repeated that to the Prime minister: the best solution for the Syrian refugees in this region and there are more than 5 million, is to have voluntary, safe and dignified return to their country.
The situation of course has been very difficult in Syria over the past few years but as in the past we looked at what the concerns of the people are in terms of returning or not returning.
We discussed very frankly with the Syrian government how to address some of these obstacles. Some are material obstacles, some are more legal and linked to documentation and property. So we had these discussions and I reported them to President Aoun this morning and now to Prime Minister Hariri, I will also meet foreign minister Gebran Bassil later today.
Our cooperation with Lebanon will continue. We are aware that new elements have been introduced in the discussions, for example a plan by the Russian Federation. It is very important to discuss because they play a very important role in Syria at the moment, so we will discuss with them as well.
I met them in Damascus and in Geneva. We have close dialogue with them and they are a very important interlocutor and player and so are all our donors that continue to support a very large refugee operation, not just in Lebanon but also in Jordan.
I was in Jordan a few days ago and in Turkey and other countries and we need to continue to have the support of these donors to support host countries that have had refugees for so many years at a very high cost on their soil.
I hope that we will move towards a solution, we need to be very prudent, any precipitated solution will be counterproductive and as you know, we have a big concern. You heard the secretary general of the United Nations and others express concerns about Idlib. This is the next big phase of the war in Syria and it may be very bloody. We hope not, we hope that the civilian lives will be spared as much as possible and the Syrian government said that they will try to adopt an approach to save as much as possible civilians' lives.
But the situation there is very difficult and very complicated and I think it is a very big preoccupation for everybody including Lebanon and the refugees who will be watching very carefully what happens there."
Source: National News Agency