BEIRUT: U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Maura Connelly, said Thursday President Bashar Assad is to blame for violence that threatens to spill over from Syria, affirming her country’s commitment to helping refugees in the country.
“The Ambassador stressed that the responsibility for the violence in Syria and the violence that threatens to spill over from Syria falls squarely on the Assad regime,” the embassy quoted Connelly as saying during her meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Grand Serail.
She also expressed her country’s grave concern over Syria’s continued shelling of and incursions into Lebanon’s border region, reiterating that the U.S. expects the Syrian government to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
There have been several Syrian army incursions into Lebanon along the poorly demarcated line between the two countries since the uprising against Assad began. Violations of the country’s border have resulted on some occasions to loss of life and damage to homes.
The March 14 opposition has repeatedly accused Syria of attempting to transport violence into Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli to divert attention from its domestic conflict.
In Tripoli, supporters and opponents of Assad have clashes several times this year with the recent deadly fighting claiming the lives of dozens and wounding some 120.
During her meeting with Mikati, Connelly consulted with the prime minister on his recent trip to New York to attend the 67th general debate session of the U.N. General Assembly and the two discussed the political and security situation in Lebanon and regional events.
Connelly also met with Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour and discussed the status of the thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled violence in their home country.
“The Ambassador praised the generosity of the Lebanese people and the efforts of the government, in conjunction with international partners and organizations, to provide humanitarian assistance to the growing number of Syrian refugees and affected Lebanese communities,” the embassy said.
Connelly pointed to the additional $30 million in U.S. assistance to Syrian refugees in neighboring countries including Lebanon and those affected by the crisis in Syria, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian aid to $132 million.
Over 80,400 Syrian refugees receive assistance from the Lebanese government, the United Nations and partners, an increase of 23,000 since last month, according to the weekly report from the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR.
It is thought the total number of refugees is far higher, as many thousands have not yet registered.
The ambassador also reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to providing assistance to Syrian refugees and the Lebanese communities that are hosting them.
She further stressed the importance of protecting all refugees in Lebanon, including dissenters and deserters who have rejected violence, in keeping with Lebanon’s international humanitarian obligations.