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Jolie lauds Lebanese generosity

  • UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets with young Syrian refugees at an informal tented settlement in Zahle, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, on 23 February 2014. (UNHCR/A. McConnell)

BEIRUT: U.N. Special Envoy and Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie Monday concluded her official visit to Lebanon to draw attention to the Syrian refugee crisis by holding talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and President Michel Sleiman.

Jolie met with Salam at the Grand Serail and later talked with Sleiman to discuss the impacts of the refugee influx on Lebanon, after having spent the previous day with refugees in the Bekaa Valley.

“The generosity and solidarity shown by Lebanon and Lebanese to its neighbor serves as an example to the world for which we should all be grateful. We all need to help them bear this burden,” Jolie said after meeting Salam.

Jolie, 38, was on a three-day visit to Lebanon to highlight the plight of Syrian children and to thank the Lebanese people for assisting refugees as the conflict enters its fourth year, a statement from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said.

The actress said she welcomed the adoption of U.N. Security Council 2139 on humanitarian assistance to Syria, which she described as “a long overdue step in the right direction for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women and children trapped in hard to reach areas across Syria.”

Jolie, who was previously a U.N. goodwill ambassador, emphasized the need for the resolution to be more than just a paper declaration.

“It must be implemented – and that will take political will and courage. The unity that the council has shown must not be a one-off, but the start of a new phase in ending the conflict,” she said.

Prior to her meetings with Salam and Sleiman, Jolie met with orphaned Syrian children living in the Bekaa Valley.

“Meeting these children was a heart-rending experience. They have lost their families and their childhood has been hijacked by war. They are so young, yet they are bearing the burdens of their reality as if they are adults,” Jolie said.

There are currently around 3,500 unaccompanied children, separated from their families, known to be living in Lebanon.

The star of films such as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” stressed throughout her visit the vital contribution being made by Lebanon.

With the number of registered refugees nearing the 1 million mark, Lebanon has the highest per capita concentration of refugees of any country, according to UNHCR. It is also hosting more Syrian refugees than any other country.

Over 930,000 Syrians have registered with the U.N. for refugee status, swelling the country’s population by one-fifth. But government estimates place the total number of displaced Syrians in the country at well over 1.5 million.

Jolie’s visit to Lebanon is her third in two years. Her last visit was in September 2012.

“The purpose of the visit was to shed light on the plight of Syrian refugees,” UNHCR spokeswoman Dana Sleiman said. “We are hoping that [the visit] will boost interest especially toward Lebanon, since Lebanon has done so much to meet the needs of Syrian refugees.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 25, 2014, on page 3.
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Summary

U.N. Special Envoy and Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie Monday concluded her official visit to Lebanon to draw attention to the Syrian refugee crisis by holding talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and President Michel Sleiman.

Jolie met with Salam at the Grand Serail and later talked with Sleiman to discuss the impacts of the refugee influx on Lebanon, after having spent the previous day with refugees in the Bekaa Valley.

Jolie, 38, was on a three-day visit to Lebanon to highlight the plight of Syrian children and to thank the Lebanese people for assisting refugees as the conflict enters its fourth year, a statement from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said.

Jolie's visit to Lebanon is her third in two years.


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