Russia invites Lebanon to Astana summit

Russian envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev addresses media persons in Beirut on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 20 June 2019

Russia invites Lebanon to Astana summit

  • “The participation of Lebanon and Iraq is necessary when discussing the Syrian crisis”

BEIRUT: The Russian president’s special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, has invited Lebanon to participate in the Astana conference as an observer. 

“Lebanon has decided to send a delegate to participate in this conference at the end of July and the beginning of … August,” Lavrentiev said after meeting Lebanese officials. “The participation of Lebanon and Iraq is necessary when discussing the Syrian crisis.”

Lavrentiev spoke to Lebanese President Michel Aoun about Moscow’s efforts to achieve stability in the Middle East, and said Russia “will do more to address the situation in Syria” in coordination with the UN secretary-general’s special envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen.

“We need to create the right conditions for the return of (Syrian) refugees,” said Lavrentiev. “It is necessary that refugees return under appropriate conditions and not to destroyed areas.”

Aoun told Lavrentiev: “Lebanon is interested in participating in the Astana conference because it facilitates efforts to find a political solution that will contribute to the return of refugees to their country.” 

Aoun said: “Participation in the Astana conference does not negate Lebanon’s right to discuss with the Syrian state arrangements for the return of refugees to their homeland. We consider Russian support for this return an important factor awaiting the participants in the Astana negotiating process to reach a final solution to the Syrian crisis.”

Lavrentiev said after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri: “Eight years since the start of the Syrian crisis, it is time to allow for a political solution to this crisis, and we agreed with the Lebanese side to further coordinate with partners, especially European countries, in order to convince them to keep up with the return of refugees.”

There have been systematic campaigns in Lebanon, including by the Labor Ministry and municipalities, against employing Syrian workers. In addition, dozens of shops operated by Syrians without permits are closed every day. 

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said two weeks ago: “We will not accept that the Lebanese remain without work while Syrian refugees work illegally.”

He added: “Municipalities should not allow Syrians to work except in the sectors of agriculture, cleaning and construction, and prevent overcrowding.”

Bassil said: “Mayors must revoke licenses and prevent the opening of shops that are not legally entitled to Syrian workers.”

The Interior Ministry “is not entitled to intervene against a mayor who is enforcing the law,” he added. “Syria is a vast country and Lebanon cannot handle this number of refugees.”

After a meeting between Lavrentiev and Bassil, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said the discussion focused on “the need to form a tripartite Russian-Lebanese-Syrian committee that facilitates the return of the refugees.”


Gaza gets vital medical aid as hospitals struggle with rising infections

Updated 29 November 2020

Gaza gets vital medical aid as hospitals struggle with rising infections

GAZA: The World Health Organization delivered 15 ventilators to Gaza hospitals on Sunday amid a spike in COVID-19 infections that has tested the Palestinian territory’s under-developed health system.
The donation of the intensive care devices, funded by Kuwait, came a week after local and international public health advisers said hospitals in the enclave could soon become overwhelmed.
“These devices will help medical teams provide better service to patients, but it is not enough,” said Abdullatif AlHajj of Gaza’s health ministry.
AlHajj said hospitals had suffered acute shortages in oxygen essential in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Gaza has logged nearly 20,000 coronavirus cases and 97 deaths, mostly since August, amid concern of a wider outbreak in the densely populated enclave of 2 million people, many of whom live in poverty.
The Gaza Health Ministry said 342 COVID-19 patients, of whom 108 are in critical condition, are being treated in the territory’s hospitals, which have been able to expand their intensive care units to 150 beds over the past week.
It said more than half of the territory’s 150 ventilators are in use.
“The health system right now can hold on for a few weeks after the expansion of beds,” said Abdelnaser Soboh, emergency health lead in the World Health Organization’s Gaza sub-office.
Soboh said Gaza is also experiencing severe shortages of medications and disposable equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients.
Palestinians in Hamas Islamist-run Gaza say 13 years of economic sanctions by Israel and its border blockade have crippled their economy and undermined the development of medical facilities, weakening their ability to tackle a pandemic.
Israel, which cites security concerns for the border restrictions it imposes along with neighboring Egypt, says it has not limited the transfer of medical supplies to Gaza to fight the pandemic.