BEIRUT: Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman arrived Wednesday in Kuwait to attend a donor conference aimed at collecting funds to help host the rising number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, at which donor countries pledged more than $1.5 billion.
Speaking at the conference, Sleiman called for a speedy solution to the issue of the Syrian refugee influx into the country.
“Lebanon has sought in the past months to provide assistance to the Syrian refugees despite its limited capabilities. However, the country needs help in hosting the refugees,” said Sleiman.
The president said that although the influx of refugees is expected to increase, the government will keep the border open to those seeking shelter in Lebanon.
“The border will remain open to refugees,” said the president.
He also called for the help of Arab countries in hosting refugees along with Lebanon because the country cannot contain all the refugees alone.
“We ask the Arab countries to share the hosting of refugees, not because we want them deported, but after we get the consent of refugees themselves and the Arab countries,” said Sleiman.
Sleiman indicated that the government has approved a $370 million comprehensive plan for the refugees.
He said that $180 will be allocated to Lebanese state institutions while $190 will be distributed over international agencies.
The president also held talks with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and U.N. High commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
Sleiman also met with British Minister in Kuwait to discuss refugee issues, as the United Kingdom doubled its funding for the Syrian crisis, a statement from the British department for international development said.
Discussions between Sleiman and the International Development Secretary Justine Greening focused on the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the UK’s assistance to the country and the neighboring countries affected by the crisis in Syria, the statement said.
Greening warned that “the conflict is placing an impossible humanitarian and financial toll on Syrians and on neighboring countries.”
According to the statement, the UK has more than doubled its funding to the Syrian refugee crisis during the conference. It is set to pledge 50 million pounds in new British funding.
Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah opened an international donors conference with a pledge of $300 million in aid for Syrians around the region.
"Due to the great sufferings of the Syrian people and to help ensure the success of the conference, I announce the Kuwaiti donation of $300 million for the Syrian people," the emir told the conference.
The UAE also pledged $300 million to help the refugees, as did Saudi Arabia.
Prior to attending the conference, President Sleiman held a closed meeting with Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the National News Agency said.
The two leaders discussed preparations for the international conference of donors to support the humanitarian situation in Syria, and exchanged views on how to help the Syrian refugees.
Talks also touched on bilateral ties.
The president was accompanied by Deputy PM Samir Moqbel, Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour and Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour.
According to Lebanese officials, over 223,000 Syrians have so far sought refuge in Lebanon as a result of the conflict in their home country.
The government has repeatedly appealed for the help of the international community to pay for health, social and education services for the refugees.
The president voiced hope Tuesday that the conference will end with Lebanon being allocated the needed funds and said Lebanon could build refugee camps in order to better monitor and regulate the large number of Syrian refugees in the country.
In total, donor countries pledged more than $1.5 billion for Syrians displaced by nearly two years of fighting, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, after the conference.
Ban told the final session of the one-day conference that the meeting has "reached its target" of $1 billion of aid for Syria's neighbours hosting refugees and another $500 million to fund humanitarian work for 4 million Syrians afflicted by the civil war inside the country.
Ban was earlier quoted by Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) as saying that the U.N. is getting limited support for its aid to millions of Syrians especially that the crisis in Syria is escalating quickly. – with Reuters, AFP