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Refugee aid funds should go through the government: Bassil

Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Friday urged donor countries to send funds for Syrian refugees directly to the Lebanese government, saying that otherwise it would act as an incentive for those displaced to not return home.

“We are interested in receiving aid as requested by the Lebanese government so that it does not go directly to refugees because this will encourage them to stay in Lebanon,” Bassil told reporters after meeting his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yii, in Beijing.

“Those who want to provide assistance should send the money directly to the Lebanese government or to the World Bank’s [Multi-donor Trust] Fund for Lebanon,” Bassil said at a news conference, his final appearance during his four-day trip for the sixth China-Arab ministerial meeting.

“Any other form of aid does not serve Lebanon’s interests because it indirectly contributes to destroying Lebanon through encouraging the Syrians to stay in it.”

Lebanon has been overwhelmed by an influx of more than 1 million Syrian refugees who have scattered across the country and rely on the state’s already creaking infrastructure and public services. Many more are expected to join them as the Syrian civil war continues with no end in sight.

In a bid to curb the number, the Interior Ministry last month issued a decision stripping any Syrian who returns across the border of his refugee status.

The government is also mulling the establishment of refugee camps in safe areas within Syria or in the no-man’s land between the two countries’ borders.

Bassil also said Chinese officials had promised to support the Lebanese Army during a conference to be hosted by Rome later this month that will focus on assisting the military.

He added that China expressed its understanding of Lebanon’s plans to address the crisis of Syrian refugees and would provide the Lebanese government with financial assistance to help it cope with the burden.

The minister also discussed the issue of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon with Wang.

“We stressed Lebanon’s outright rejection of them staying in Lebanon and we highlighted the fact that Lebanon could obstruct any solution [to the Arab-Israeli conflict] that does not stipulate their return to Palestine or to any other country,” he said.

The two also touched on ways to boost economic ties between Lebanon and China.

“There are opportunities to benefit from our cooperation with China as China is poised to become the world’s biggest economic power,” said Bassil.

“Cooperation with China benefits Lebanon, particularly given that the political stance of the Chinese state has always been on the side of Lebanon and other countries when it comes to rightful causes,” he added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 07, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Friday urged donor countries to send funds for Syrian refugees directly to the Lebanese government, saying that otherwise it would act as an incentive for those displaced to not return home.

Bassil also said Chinese officials had promised to support the Lebanese Army during a conference to be hosted by Rome later this month that will focus on assisting the military.

He added that China expressed its understanding of Lebanon's plans to address the crisis of Syrian refugees and would provide the Lebanese government with financial assistance to help it cope with the burden.

The two also touched on ways to boost economic ties between Lebanon and China.


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