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Aoun-Putin Summit Links Return of Refugees to Favorable Conditions

Aoun-Putin Summit Links Return of Refugees to Favorable Conditions

Saturday, 30 March, 2019 - 07:15
Syrian refugee children at an informal refugee camp in the area of Zahrani, south of the Lebanese capital Beirut, on July 9, 2015 (AFP Photo/Joseph Eid)
Beirut - Mohamed Choucair
The return of Syrian refugees from Lebanon to their country hinges on finding favorable economic and social conditions through Syria's reconstruction, Lebanese cabinet ministers said.

The ministers, who refused to be identified, told Asharq Al-Awsat that during their summit in Moscow this week, Russian President Valdimir Putin and his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Aoun, agreed on consolidating joint action to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees.

The visit coincided with a Syrian Interior Ministry announcement calling on official border checkpoints to facilitate the return of refugees who left the country illegally by relieving them from administrative measures.

The announcement, which came upon Moscow’s request, was part of a series of political guarantees for the safe return of the displaced, the sources said.

Damascus should take further measures, including the annulment of a law allowing the Syrian regime to seize homes for redevelopment.

The ministers agree with Aoun on not linking the return of Syrian refugees to a political solution in the war-torn country. But they raised question marks over whether preparing the social and economic conditions for their return would be an easy task.

According to the same sources, the implementation of a Russian initiative aimed at facilitating the repatriation of refugees has been delayed after talks between Moscow and the UN Refugee Agency hit a snag.

“Moscow asked the UNHCR to guarantee funding for the transfer of refugees, even if in several stages. However, the agency referred the issue to donor countries,” the sources explained.

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