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Lebanon minister: All Syrian refugees must return home

Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi speaks during a press conference at the Ministry in Beirut, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: All Syrian refugees in Lebanon must return home, Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi proposed Thursday, suggesting that they be divided by sympathies and directed to either rebel- or regime-held areas of Syria.

“What is at stake now is the proposal that refugees who trust the regime return to the areas under regime control, and those who have faith in Nusra Front and ISIS go to the regions under their control,” Azzi was quoted as saying by An-Nahar.

Azzi, who represents the Kataeb Party in the Cabinet, made the suggestion at a meeting Thursday that was overshadowed by protests of families of military and security personnel held by takfiri militants from Syria’s Nusra Front and ISIS.

Azzi was quoted as saying that the option of setting up camps for the refugees, similar to the ones existing in Jordan and Turkey, was no longer relevant.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s Cabinet is struggling to secure the release of 23 soldiers and policemen who were captured by Nusra Front and ISIS following five days of fierce fighting between the Army and the militants in the northeastern border town of Arsal last month.

The two groups have demanded the release of Islamist detainees in Roumieh Prison, threatening to execute the hostages if the government fails to meet their demands. Earlier this week, ISIS handed over the body of Army 1st Sgt. Ali al-Sayyed, whom the militants beheaded to pressure the government to negotiate.

 

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