Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil leans to take a question during the news conference in Beirut, Friday, July 4, 2014. (The Daily Star/Stringer)
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Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Friday warned against attempts to permanently settle Syrian refugees in Lebanon, arguing that it was high time Lebanese authorities took initiatives to protect the country's sovereignty."We do so to preserve Lebanon's higher interests".He added that he spoke to his Syrian counterpart Walid Moallem but categorically dismissed discussing Lebanon's stalled presidential election with Syrian officials. At the news conference, Bassil argued that setting up camps or legitimizing existing informal ones was a veiled attempt to settle refugees and was a blatant violation of the country's Constitution.The foreign minister spoke to local and international media one day after the U.N. said that Syrian refugees in Lebanon would constitute more than a third of the country's population by the end of 2014 .In addition, one of the solutions to the refugee crisis is to establish camps in no-man's land along the border between Lebanon and Syria, according to Bassil.Although the proposal is largely frowned upon by aid groups and the Syrian government, Bassil said it was a purely Lebanese decision, since the gatherings will be set up on Lebanese territories inside Syria. Bassil disclosed that donors see shrinking numbers of refugees in Lebanon gradually as a pre-requisite to comply with Lebanon's demands.
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