BEIRUT: Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour retracted Wednesday an earlier comment in which he said a second letter of complaint from Syria’s envoy to Lebanon against his ministry represented a threat to his life.
“I will respond to him in writing and will tell him I expect a bomb from the Syrian regime [after receiving this letter],” he said when asked to comment on a second letter he said was issued by Syrian envoy Ali Abdel-Karim Ali accusing his ministry of aiding refugees on the basis of political affiliation.
Following a meeting of the ministerial committee tasked with discussing the issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Abu Faour said he had made the remarks jokingly.
“I was only joking,” he told The Daily Star.
Ali sent a letter to the Foreign Ministry earlier this month, saying the embassy had been receiving complaints from Syrian refugees about some “extremist Salafist organizations” in Lebanon blackmailing Syrian refugees in Lebanon and exploiting their situations to serve their own agenda.
Speaking Tuesday, Abu Faour said the Syrian ambassador had gone “too far” by issuing the second letter of complaint and said he would respond to it and the letter that was sent earlier.
Abu Faour said Wednesday that the latest letter from the Syrian ambassador “reflects the true nature of the Syrian regime.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who headed the ministerial committee’s meeting said the issue of Syrian refugees coming to Lebanon is humanitarian and cannot and should not be politicized, a statement from his press office said.
“The Cabinet has addressed the refugees file with no discrimination between pro or anti Assad [refugees]. Thus, involving the case in political disputes and targeting any ministry or official Lebanese side is unacceptable,” said the prime minister, speaking from the Grand Serail.
“The Lebanese state has offered help to Syrian refugees even before the international organizations started working to help them,” said the prime minister, giving assurances that Lebanon has addressed the case within humanitarian norms.
Mikati also said that serious and imminent work should get under way to secure required funds to keep up helping refugees, whose number has exceeded 160,000.
He added that a plan endorsed by the Cabinet last month aims at organizing aid to Syrians and indicates the role the international society should play to assist Lebanon in sheltering the refugees.
The plan was endorsed on Dec. 3 under the title “Response of the Government of Lebanon to the Crisis of Syrian Displaced Families and Lebanese Host Communities.”