Lebanese president pledges safe return of Syrian refugees

Lebanese President Michel Aoun met EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini in Beirut. (AFP/File)
Updated 27 February 2019

Lebanese president pledges safe return of Syrian refugees

  • President met European Union foreign policy chief
  • Syrian refugees, maritime dispute with Israel discussed

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun pledged the safe return of Syrian refugees, with the European Union (EU) confirming it was ready to help in all areas of repatriation.

Aoun met the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, in Beirut. She had been in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for a two-day Arab-EU summit and was on the same flight as Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who had also been at the summit.

During a meeting with Mogherini, Aoun said: “Lebanon will continue to work to ensure the return of Syrian refugees to safe areas in Syria, and we will not wait for a political solution to the Syrian crisis as it may take long.

“We have received information in Beirut indicating that returning refugees are being cared for by the Syrian authorities, who have provided them with prefabs, infrastructure and schools - the EU and other international organizations can verify this.”

Aoun said that while the EU made political decisions, Lebanon’s were socio-economic, referring to the negative impact of the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon.

He suggested that “international aid should be paid to Syrian refugees after they return home to encourage their return,” explaining that “distributing aid to refugees in Lebanon along with their work here in which they compete with the Lebanese labor force are encouraging them to stay, leading to an increase in the immigration of Lebanese youth.”

Aoun stressed that cooperation between the Lebanese army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to maintain stability on the southern Lebanese border would continue.

Mogherini briefed the Lebanese president on the outcomes of the summit and also met Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who discussed with her the Lebanese-Israeli maritime dispute over the maritime border. 

He called on the EU to play an effective role in its demarcation. He also highlighted the need to understand Lebanon’s position on helping Syrian refugees return to their country.

Mogherini and Hariri inaugurated a new EU building, and Mogherini described it as “the best symbol of friendship and family atmosphere” linking the EU with Lebanon.

“The work we are doing in Lebanon in the security and defense sectors are not only for Lebanon but also for the security of Europe. We certainly have political, economic and social dialogues, our bilateral trade is increasing year after year, and investment in Lebanon has become an increasing priority.
“During the Cedar Conference, we pledged to contribute a package of more than 1.5 billion euros until 2020 in conjunction with the reforms scheduled to be implemented, and we learned that the government is determined to implement them.
“Lebanon may be the most European country among Arab countries, and I hope that European students would continue their education in Lebanon.”
Hariri said Lebanon was Europe’s gateway to the Arab world and the Arab World’s gateway to Europe.
“The EU has always supported Lebanon's sovereignty and independence and continues to be our partner in peace, stability, prosperity and growth, and we are grateful for that.”


Iran cries victory after UN rejects US bid to extend arms embargo

Updated 15 August 2020

Iran cries victory after UN rejects US bid to extend arms embargo

  • Only two of the Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the US resolution seeking to extend the embargo
  • The result increases the likelihood that the US will try to unilaterally force a return of UN sanctions

TEHRAN: Iran on Saturday hailed a UN Security Council vote rejecting a US bid to extend an arms embargo on the Islamic republic, saying its foe has “never been so isolated.”
President Hassan Rouhani said the United States had failed to kill off what he called the “half alive” 2015 deal with major powers that gave Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
“The United States failed in this conspiracy with humiliation,” Rouhani told a televised news conference.
“In my opinion, this day will go down in the history of our Iran and in the history of fighting global arrogance.”
Only two of the Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the US resolution seeking to extend the embargo, highlighting the division between Washington and its European allies since President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear accord in May 2018.
Washington’s European allies all abstained, and Iran mocked the Trump administration for only winning the support of one other country, the Dominican Republic.
“In the 75 years of United Nations history, America has never been so isolated,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.
“Despite all the trips, pressure and the hawking, the United States could only mobilize a small country (to vote) with them,” he tweeted.
The result increases the likelihood that the US will try to unilaterally force a return of UN sanctions, which experts say threatens to plunge the Council into one of its worst-ever diplomatic crises.
“The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The embargo on conventional arms is due to expire on October 18 under the terms of a resolution that blessed the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Since Trump pulled out of the JCPOA and slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran under a campaign of “maximum pressure,” Tehran has since taken small but escalating steps away from compliance with the nuclear accord as it presses for sanctions relief.
European allies of the United States — who, along with Russia and China, signed the deal with Iran — have voiced support for extending the 13-year-long conventional arms embargo, saying an expiry threatens stability in the Middle East.
However, their priority is to preserve the JCPOA.
The US text, seen by AFP, effectively called for an indefinite extension of the embargo on Iran, which diplomats said would threaten the nuclear agreement.
Iran says it has the right to self-defense and that a continuation of the ban would mean an end to the nuclear deal.
Pompeo announced that members had failed to back the proposal around 30 minutes before Indonesia, the current president of the Security Council, announced that the official results included two votes against and 11 abstentions.
Russia and China opposed the resolution.
“The result shows again that unilateralism enjoys no support, and bullying will fail,” China’s UN mission tweeted.
Ambassador Gunter Sautter of Germany, which abstained, said “more consultations are needed” to find a solution that is acceptable to all council members.
During a call between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, the leaders “discussed the urgent need for UN action to extend the arms embargo on Iran.”
Hours earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on China, France, Russia, Britain, the US, Germany and Iran to convene an emergency video summit to avoid an escalation of tensions in the Gulf.
Washington has threatened to try to force a return of UN sanctions if it is not extended by using a controversial technique called “snapback.”
Pompeo has offered the contested argument that the US remains a “participant” in the nuclear accord as it was listed in the 2015 resolution — and therefore can force a return to sanctions if it sees Iran as being in violation of its terms.
European allies have been skeptical on whether Washington can force sanctions and warn that the attempt may delegitimize the Security Council.
Nevertheless, the US is expected to deliver the snapback letter next week, AFP understands.
Analysts suspect that Washington purposefully put forward a hard-line draft that it knew Council members would not be able to accept.
“The fact is that everybody at the UN believes this (resolution) is just a prelude to a US effort to trigger snapback and sink the Iranian nuclear deal,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the International Crisis Group, told AFP.