Filippo Grandi speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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The U.N. high commissioner for refugees warned Friday that the Syrian government's imminent offensive in Idlib could set back refugee returns from Lebanon and other countries.He added he had urged all parties with regards to Idlib, the last remaining major population center remaining under rebel control, to "find, as much as possible, a solution, a way forward for that area that spares civilian lives". Prior to his arrival in Lebanon, Grandi visited Jordan and Syria. In Syria, he said, he toured Eastern Ghouta and Deraa, both sites of recent Syrian regime military offensives, and met with Syrian and Russian officials.At a news conference at the UNHCR's Beirut headquarters, Grandi said that in the long term, "here, as everywhere, the best solution is and remains voluntary repatriation" for refugees. But he cautioned against a push to return in the near term, given the current dynamics in Syria and the likelihood of a military escalation in Idlib.Some 5.6 million registered Syrian refugees remain outside in surrounding countries.
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