BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk called on Syrian refugees Thursday not to hold any political meetings or gatherings, saying they could affect the fragile security situation in Lebanon.
The call comes ahead of the presidential election in Syria, scheduled for June 3.
Machnouk asked refugees “not to hold any political gatherings, and not to hold public meetings with political dimensions that could in any way affect the security and stability of Lebanon, or the relationship between Syrian refugees and Lebanese people,” according to a statement released by the Interior Ministry.
The statement said the decision was taken in accordance with the government’s policy of disassociation from the Syrian crisis and to safeguard relations between the Lebanese people and Syrian refugees.
The statement added that refugees had the right to exercise their “freedom and political choice,” insofar as they observe “the rules of Lebanese national security.”
He also asked the U.N. and international organizations to maintain their responsibilities toward the refugees and work on notifying them about the ministry’s decision and to follow up on its implementation.
The minister called on the Lebanese security services “to not be lenient in dealing firmly with any act or activity that could destabilize internal security.” Lebanon is hosting over 1 million Syrian refugees.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 23, 2014, on page 3.