BEIRUT: Lebanon’s decision to impose entry visa requirements for Syrians is “totally unacceptable,” Syrian Ambassador Ali Abdul Karim Ali said Tuesday.
“The decision contradicts bilateral agreements signed between Lebanon and Syria, which stipulate that any change in the treaties should be discussed between the two countries,” Ali told daily Al-Akhbar, hinting that Damascus may close the border in retaliation to disrupt the transit route to the Gulf countries for Lebanese merchandise.
He stressed, however, that Syria approves Lebanon’s efforts to regulate and organize the presence of Syrian refugees and is ready to cooperate in that regard.
“Organizing the entry (of Syrians) is better than the humiliation and degradation to which the Syrians are subjected at the border, but the issue of entry visas is a strange matter,” Ali said, adding that his government was not informed of the measure and did not discuss it.
Asked how Syria would react to the new measure, Ali said: “Syria does not favor escalation which is not in the interest of bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries.”
“But if Syria reacts by closing the border to (transit) trucks, Lebanon would be harmed more than Syria. We have to wait and see how the matter would develop,” Ali added.
Also Tuesday, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas told Voice of Lebanon Radio that the measure was devised as a result of a thorough study by a ministerial committee and was unanimously approved by the Cabinet.
“Some countries want Lebanon to become a province for UNHCR,” Derbas said, in implicit criticism of the U.N. agency which had reproached Lebanon over the new measure.
“The measure taken by General Security helps Lebanon reinforce its sovereignty, security and borders,” Derbas said, stressing that “there is nothing in the Treaty of Brotherhood and Cooperation (between Syria and Lebanon) which says that 1.5 million Syrians can flood Lebanon within one year.”
Derbas pointed out that Syria was notified about Lebanon’s decision through the secretary general of the Higher Syrian-Lebanese Council, Nasri Khoury.