Middle East

Prime minister urges dialogue, return of refugees to country

United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos is greeted by Halqi in August. (AFP PHOTO/STR)

BEIRUT: The Syrian government Tuesday moved forward with plans to launch national dialogue and encourage refugees to return to the country.

The state-run news agency SANA said Prime Minister Wael Halqi ordered the formation of a committee in each of the country’s 14 governorates, in order to begin consultations over the “form and content” of a national dialogue process.

The committees were ordered to begin their work “immediately” and issue periodic progress reports, which would help determine the participants in a national dialogue conference. The committees are to be chaired by the governor of each province, joined by high-ranking Baath Party, police and state officials.

Halqi issued a separate decision to form a committee to oversee the return of Syrians who have fled unrest in their country, by offering all possible “administrative and logistical help” to returnees.

Some 700,000 Syrians are officially registered as refugees with the United Nations, and Halqi’s decision appeared to address the fact that large numbers of people fled through illegal border crossings, or lacked proper paperwork when they fled.

Separately, SANA said that Halqi had urged ministers during a weekly Cabinet meeting to step up their efforts to provide for the “basic needs” of the public, and particularly gasoline and heating oil.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 30, 2013, on page 8.




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