Lebanon News

Bassil warns of protracted Syrian refugee crisis

Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil speaks during a press conference on March 24, 2014 in Kuwait city as part of his visit to attend the Annual Arab Summit. AFP PHOTO/YASSER AL-ZAYYAT

BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Monday warned of a plan for a long-term stay of displaced Syrians in Lebanon, stressing that the refugee crisis poses a threat to the world.

“The Syrian refugee crisis will create a threat to all humanity at all levels,” Bassil responded in English to a reporter’s question during a news conference he held in Kuwait ahead of the Arab summit.

Bassil said he urged Arabs during a meeting Monday of Arab League Foreign Ministers to create settlements for Syrian refugees outside Lebanon “because there is a plot to keep them here for a long time.”

At least 1 million Syrian refugees have fled the civil war in their country to Lebanon.

He highlighted the problems posed by the Syrian refugee situation at the national level and said he hoped an Arab decision to help alleviate the burden would be translated into concrete actions.

He also stressed that the influx of Syrian refugees to Lebanon "must be stopped” and called for their redistribution to other neighboring countries.

Bassil said another danger to Lebanon was terrorism and the Israeli occupation.

“This is why we got approval during [Monday’s Arab Foreign ministers] to support Lebanon in resisting Israeli occupation and confronting terrorism,” he added.

Likewise, Bassil added, he hoped Arabs would work toward the implementation of an agreement reached during Monday’s meeting in Kuwait to support the Lebanese Army and bolster its military capabilities in its fight against terrorism.

Bassil hailed the "unprecedented" $3 billion Saudi grant to equip the Army with the necessary weapons from France and said that while Lebanon is most affected by terrorism, the phenomena of terrorism in the whole region was significant.

"For this reason we strive to arm the Lebanese Army [because] Lebanon is fighting terrorism for all the Arabs,” he stressed.

President Michel Sleiman flew to Kuwait Monday to take part in the two-day Arab League summit, scheduled to kick off Tuesday.

Sleiman instructed Bassil to document the "recent aerial and rocket attacks [from Syria] on Lebanese villages in order to take the appropriate diplomatic measures,” a statement from his office said.





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