PRESIDENT AOUN CONTINUES TALKS ON RETURN OF THE DISPLACED
It is not permissible to wait for a political solution to the Syrian crisis
Respect for freedom of belief, expression of opinion and the right to disagree is part of the Lebanese culture
(Translation of this article appears in Arabic Section)
M. E. Times Int'l: President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, continued his meetings at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the 11th September. with European and Lebanese delegation members and the EU Commissioner for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini.
THE talks considered regional developments and the Lebanese-EU bilateral relations.
During the meeting, President Aoun stressed that "Lebanon succeeded in reaching many political and security achievements, while the subject of the Syrian refugees remains amongst its pressing issues, causing repercussions on various political, economic, financial, social and security levels." "The return of the displaced has become a dire necessity for Lebanon, especially as groups of them leave gradually to the stable areas of Syria, and other groups are also preparing to leave," he said.
Praising the assistance provided by the European Union to Lebanon, Aoun underlined the need to help in securing the return of displaced Syrians to their country. "It is not permissible to wait for a political solution to the Syrian crisis to resolve the issue of the return of refugees to the safe areas in their country, because this could be delayed," he emphasized, pointing to the experiences of Cyprus and Palestine.
"A European meeting will be held at the ministerial level on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss the issue of the return of the displaced," she disclosed, hoping that President Aoun would partake in the conference, which will also be attended by concerned countries that had previously participated in the Brussels meetings. Mogherini stressed that "the presence of President Aoun in Strasbourg is important, and that the message he sent through the European platform has reached, and the European support for Lebanon is strong and will continue."
President Aoun hailed the European Union, describing it as a unique area in which people's dreams are intertwined and the principles and ideals are shared, while maintaining their individualities, cultural depths and sense of belonging to their homeland. "The strength of the European Parliament, this democratic edifice, lies in the building of real peace on the European continent, the absence of a war tendency to solve problems and the conviction of a large group of nations that their power, interests and prosperity are in their unity and not in the conflict between them," Aoun asserted.
The President also commended the role of the European Union's delegation to Lebanon that provided support for the preparation and organization of Lebanon's recent parliamentary elections. He also called on the European Parliament to support Lebanon's repeated demand to be declared as "a permanent center for dialogue between different civilizations, religions and races."
“I call for activating the financial decisions to support Lebanon to ensure a decent repatriation for the displaced to their countries, especially that Lebanon tolerated the burden of Syrian refugees at economic, social and security levels," President Aoun said during the speech at the opening of the EU Parliament's ordinary session for 2018-2019. Aoun rejected linking between the return of the displaced and the political solution to the Syrian crisis.
"We are concerned about any link between the return of the displaced and the political solution to the Syrian crisis," he said, recalling the Palestinian cause that remains without a political solution. "Lebanon seeks to secure a dignified and safe return of the displaced to their homes, and rejects any procrastination in this regard. It supports any aid to resolve the issue of massive Syrian migration to its territories, like the Russian initiative and refuses to link it to a long-standing political solution," Aoun underlined.
President Aoun then referred to the recent parliamentary elections in Lebanon, and the achieved results in terms of consolidating democracy and parliamentary life in the country. He also indicated that "contacts are ongoing to form a new government soon." In response Mogherini commended "the existing cooperation between Lebanon and the European Union, which is always ready to help Lebanon." She indicated that the EU is cautiously dealing with the issue of the return of the displaced, pending more clarity on the military scene in Syria.
Mogherini considered that "there are areas that are still in danger in Syria, as a result of the confrontations that take place there."
Commenting on the general situation in Lebanon, President Aoun pointed out "Lebanon is divided politically due to regional wars, and not nationally. “Lebanese society by nature is not an incubator for extremism and rejection of the other. Respect for freedom of belief, expression of opinion and the right to disagree is part of the Lebanese culture," he added. "This characteristic helps Lebanon to overcome its problems and enhance its internal security, in addition to inspiring other countries," stressed Aoun. He continued to emphasize, "Lebanon finds only in dialogue, mutual respect and the return to universal principles of human rights, groups and countries, a way to cool the engines of violence, wars and extremism, which made our region a burning heart of hatred, fear and unrest."
"What surrounds us today makes us more committed to the foundations on which the State of Lebanon was founded, first and foremost being its democratic system, alongside its coexistence, diversity and cultural wealth," Aoun underscored.
Touching on the challenges facing Lebanon at the current stage, Aoun stressed that it was a top priority to "combat corruption and promote transparency and accountability." He disclosed that basic work will be launched with the new government, which will shoulder the responsibility of implementing the economic development plan and the Cedar Conference decisions and boosting stability and prosperity in the country.