British ambassador Hugo Shorter speaks during an interview with The Daily Star in Beirut, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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U.K. Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter warned that while Syrian President Bashar Assad remained in power it wouldn't be safe to return refugees from Lebanon.The ambassador reiterated the U.K. government's long-held stance that for an end to the conflict in Syria, Assad has to step aside.Lebanon is currently hosting over 1 million registered refugees from Syria, but the government places the true figure at over 1.5 million.He also described the Israel-Palestinian issue and the impact on Lebanon as "one of the knottiest problems in international relations". However, he said that Lebanon's leaders needed to deeply consider what was in the best interests of the Lebanese people when it comes to relations with Israel, adding that this should lead toward a model of peaceful relations.While the ambassador admitted that the right of return for Palestinian refugees – a central issue for Lebanon given the estimated 450,000 Palestinians in the country – would ultimately be tied to a two-state solution, he said that Lebanon making the right of return a condition for talks was a barrier to the creation of a more peaceful relationship.Touching on regional interference in Lebanon and talk of re-engaging with the Syrian regime, Shorter said that ultimately this was a choice that politicians had to make about what kind of country they were working to build.
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