BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker minister of state for refugee affairs said his ministry has not received a draft of a recent Russian proposal for the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, in comments published in Annahar newspaper Monday.
“It’s unclear and there is no serious agreement on [the Russian proposal],” Mouin Merehbi said in the interview, stressing that agreements between Russian, American and European officials were necessary to go forward. “The proposal is still in its first stages and it needs more work ... and money,” he added.
In July, the Russian Defense Ministry announced it had sent Washington a proposal for a joint plan to return refugees, which included establishing working groups in Lebanon and Jordan involving both U.S. and Russian officials. Lebanon has welcomed the proposal and high-level meetings between Lebanese and Russian delegations have since been held on the matter.
The Russian Defense Ministry had announced that over 1.7 million Syrian refugees would be able to return to Syria in the near future, including a possible 890,000 from Lebanon.
However, Merehbi told Annahar he thought it was more realistic to expect around 300,000 Syrian refugees around the world to return to their homes, and out of this number, 100,000 refugees from Lebanon would return.
Lebanon hosts close to 1 million Syrian refugees, representing an estimated quarter of Lebanon’s population, and some Lebanese officials say the number is much higher.