The Lebanese President Michel Aoun stressed Thursday in his maiden speech before the UN General Assembly that Lebanon will not allow the naturalization of any Syrian or Palestinian refugee on its soil “no matter what that might cost.”
“The decision in this regard belongs to us and not to anyone else,” Aoun underlined.
Noting that the Syrian state is now in control of “85 percent of its territory,” the president emphasized that “there is an urgent need to organize the return of refugees to their country.”
“Some call for the refugees’ voluntary return and we call for their safe return and differentiate between the two concepts,” Aoun noted.
“The claim that they will not be safe should they return to their country is an unacceptable excuse… If the Syrian state is carrying out reconciliations with the armed groups that it is fighting, wouldn’t it be able to do so with refugees who had fled war?” the president asked.
He added: “The UN better help the refugees return home instead of helping them to stay in encampments that lack the least requirements of decent life.”
Separately and from the same UN podium, Aoun nominated Lebanon to become a “permanent, UN-affiliated center for dialogue among the various cultures, religions and races.”
“I hope the member states will back Lebanon in this demand, so that we can all work for peace, security and stability,” he added.
US President Donald Trump’s suggestion that refugees be resettled closer to home instead of brought to the United States has angered many in Lebanon, a tiny country hosting more than 1.5 million refugees.
The country of just 4 million is officially hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees and some 500,000 Palestinians. The real numbers are likely higher as many don’t register with the UN.