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WASHINGTON – Whether it’s a ploy or a definite show of overcoming its Sunni opposition, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has entered into discussions with Lebanese officials to begin returning Syrian refugees who escaped the violence in Syria and headed south, according to report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
“We are coordinating with the foreign minister and the Lebanese government on finding common ground that guarantees the best care and safe return of Syrian refugees to areas the government is rebuilding in a swift manner,” said Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abel-Karim Ali.
Ali had met with Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour to discuss moving some of the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who fled the violence but have been living under harsh conditions in tents and makeshift shelters against the bitter cold in Lebanon’s Baqa’a Valley.
“Syria is the only safe haven for its citizens, providing them with more dignity than any other country,” Ali said.
Mansour said his government wants to guarantee the return of the refugees only to safe areas in Syria.
One concern by Ali was the possibility of some refugees smuggling in arms and gunmen.
“We don’t mean expelling the refugees, but that Syria has increased safety by a large percentage in its areas, as extremist and terrorist groups have become weaker,” Ali said.
Currently, there are more than 200,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, where services on a good day for its own citizens are stretched. While Lebanon has sought some $180 million to provide aid to the Syrian refugees now in Lebanon, few donations from outside have been forthcoming, according to sources.
Each month, up to 40,000 refugees have been flooding into Lebanon to escape harm, which would put an estimated 400,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon by June if others haven’t been returned before then.
At least one Lebanese minister, Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil, suggested Lebanon should set limits on the influx of Syrian refugees.
However, Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, who is critical of the Assad regime, said Lebanon needs to help the Syrian refugees.
“I strongly condemn anyone who says we should find a way to deport the Syrian refugees from Lebanon,” he said. “The Syrian and Lebanese people are one and we should provide Syrian refugees with all possible assistance.”
One group of Syrian refugees – the Palestinians – continue to have problems in Lebanon, where Palestinians generally are not allowed any of the basic civil rights afforded to citizens.
Palestinians recently protested in front of the Beirut office of the International Committee of the Red Cross over the lack of assistance to Palestinians, who claim that they are being treated differently from the Syrian refugees.
And estimated 200,000 Palestinians live in United Nations-run camps throughout Lebanon, with another 200,000 Palestinians living elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Iran said it will be provide some 30,000 food parcels for the influx of refugees in Lebanon.
In addition, Doctors Without Borders, which has an office in Beirut, is providing basic needs such as medicines, blankets and food to Syrian refugees residing in the Beqa’a Valley.
An leader of Doctors Without Borders, which receives funding from private contributors, has told WND/G2Bulletin the group does not discriminate by nationality or sectarian persuasion in its provision of assistance to refugees.
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