BEIRUT: The Syrian government opposes the establishment of refugee camps along the border with Lebanon, Syrian Ambassador Ali Abdul-Karim Ali said Friday.
“We are against the establishment of camps, Syrians will be able to return to their home country because Syria is a vast country and can embrace all of its citizens,” Ali told reporters, after talks with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
Earlier in the day Bassil had held a meeting that he had requested with representatives from the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, to discuss the establishment of the camps.
The foreign minister explained to the representatives, both the government's policy, and its means to cooperate with the international community with regard to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Lebanon has been lobbying for the establishment of camps, either in no man’s land near the border with Syria, or inside the country in safe zones. However, U.N. organizations and the international community have implicitly opposed such a proposal.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government has adopted a policy to address the overwhelming presence of refugees, including one that has Syrians risking their refugee status if they return.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Ali, Bassil said discussion with the envoy was the “official start of talks to [facilitate] the return of Syrians to Syria.”
“This is part of Lebanon’s policy to distance the country from regional conflicts,” he said.
Ali said the government in Lebanon should exempt some Syrians from paying overdue taxes and residency fees to allow them to return.
“There should always be coordination between the two countries and governments, as well as the two armies, which makes the arena of terrorism smaller and more difficult,” he said.