BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said Friday that he supported the Geneva plan to end the crisis in Syria and added that Russia was willing to assist in resolving the growing refugee crisis in Lebanon.
“The Geneva plan is the basis for a solution to the crisis of Lebanon’s neighbor,” Jumblatt told reporters following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
The Geneva Plan stipulates a cease-fire and the formation of a transitional government to oversee parliamentary and presidential elections. It does not call for the the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, a key demand of the Syrian opposition in any potential agreement.
“The participants exchanged viewpoints over the developments in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon and Syria,” said a statement from the PSP media office. In the wake of the developments in Syria, Jumblatt has taken a different stance than the parties represented within the coalition government. “Both sides [Jumblatt and Russian officials] agreed to continue their talks and on their commitment to stability and security in the region,” said the statement.
Jumblatt also met with the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Federation Council, Mikhail Margelov, and other senior Russian officials. Jumblatt has asked the international community to do more to end the bloodshed that has killed at least 60,000 Syrians.
During his last visit to Damascus in late 2012, U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi made references to the Geneva plan but no tangible results have surfaced since then.
In a rare public speech earlier this month, Assad put forward his own initiative to resolve the crises in which the Syrian army would abide by a cease-fire on condition that rebel groups halt hostilities. During the speech at the Damascus Opera House, Assad also rallied Syrians to mobilize for a war to defend the state against what he described as “a puppet made by the West.”
Despite his criticism of Moscow’s policies in Syria, Jumblatt described Russia’s vision for reaching a solution to the crisis as positive.
“But how can it be implemented?” asked Jumblatt.
He added that it was necessary for international leaders to agree on the principles that could create a solution for the war-torn country.
The PSP leader said he would discuss the outcome of his Moscow meetings with his friends in the Syrian opposition, adding that he hopes Russian officials would participate in the U.N. conference on Syrian refugees in Kuwait later this month.
Jumblatt also said that he had discussed the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon and said Russia had expressed willingness to help in the issue.
“Russia voiced its readiness to resolve the issue of Syrian refugees financially and politically,” he said.
The U.N. estimates that the number of refugees in host countries could reach 1 million if the unrest continues. According to the UNHCR, Lebanon alone is now home to at least 200,000 Syrian refugees. Although the U.N. pledged $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid to the Syrian refugees last year, Lebanon has struggled to provide adequate shelter and food for the displaced.
Last week, the Arab League said that it would send a team to Lebanon after the government in Beirut appealed to Arab states to help fund its plan to assist the refugees. Government officials have said Lebanon needs $180 million annually to cope with the rising demand of the refugees.
Regarding the political deadlock in Lebanon, Jumblatt reiterated that dialogue remained the only option to resolve the bickering.