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Lebanon president: Syrian refugees should return to homeland's calmer areas

17 Octobre 2017

Lebanon's president said on Monday his country could no longer cope with hosting huge numbers of Syrian refugees and called on world powers to help them to return to calmer areas of their troubled homeland.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun told worldwide envoys he wanted to find ways for them to return safely but would not force people back to places where they could face persecution.

According to a statement by the Presidential media office, Aoun's stance came during a meeting with Ambassadors of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) at the Presidential Palace in Baabda.

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Michel Aoun said the refugees' return to safe areas in Syria will put an end to their suffering and save Lebanon from negative repercussions.

The long-term presence of refugees is a particularly sensitive issue in Lebanon where some politicians say the influx of mainly Sunni Syrians might destabilize the delicate sectarian balance with Christians, Shi'ite Muslims and others.

The U.N. refugee agency does not yet consider Syria safe for refugee to return to. Aoun told the envoys there were areas of Syria not now at war and areas where calm has returned, a media office spokesman said. Aoun said it was in the worldwide community's interest to solve the refugee problem so that existing political, economic and social problems in Lebanon did not get out of hand. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has said there can be no forced returns.

Lebanon president: Syrian refugees should return to homeland's calmer areas