Caretaker Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Mouin Merehbi speaks during an interview with The Daily Star in Beirut, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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Lebanon doesn't have much to show for an initiative announced by Russia in July to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees from the region and Europe.Precisely how many refugees remain in Lebanon is difficult to ascertain.But Lebanese officials have said there could be as many as 1.5 million Syrian refugees still in Lebanon, citing the high number of unregistered individuals.Russia has been a party to the 7-year-old Syrian war since it entered the conflict in 2015 on President Bashar Assad's side.Soon after the initiative was announced, following a meeting in Helsinki between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, Moscow said over 1.7 million Syrian refugees would be able to return to Syria under the plan.About 30,000 Syrians who had fought in Syria seek to remain in Lebanon, the Russian government said.Lebanese and Russian follow-up committees were formed in September to coordinate on the initiative.A Lebanese source close to the Russian initiative who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Daily Star, "I disagree with Merehbi's negative point of view".They allowed that the 6-month-old Cabinet vacuum had hampered Lebanon's ability to make the best of the initiative.
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