Lebanon FM scorns international community over Syrian refugee crisis
BEIRUT—Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Saturday, accused the international community of approaching the Syrian refugee crisis with a double standard, hours after U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon departed Beirut following a two-day visit.
Bassil pointed to the inconsistency of countries that back Syria`s armed insurrection to call on Lebanon to put human rights first, noting that many of those states were removing refugees by force - a move Beirut has not taken.
“They create war, and then call on others to host refugees in line with human rights treaties,” he said in a televised news conference from his residence in Batroun.
“They visit Lebanon only to take pictures with refugees. They hail Lebanon’s endurance capacity to deal with the crisis. But how are we benefiting? Where is the aid they pledged?” a visibly angered Bassil added.
The news conference also comes several days following a visit by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini over the refugee crisis.
Bassil did not meet with Ban during his visit, which came about three months after the Lebanese FM sent a letter to the U.N. chief protesting a resolution he felt would allow Syrians to stay in Lebanon for a prolonged period.
But Ban wrote back earlier this month, saying the fate of Syrian refugees was ultimately up to the host country - a statement he reiterated Friday in a news conference from Beirut.
Nevertheless, Bassil Saturday called for practical measures to guarantee that Syrian refugees would not be naturalized.
“We (Lebanese) are all against their naturalization, but we will be doomed ... if we didn’t take unilateral, sovereign measures to reduce the numbers of refugees,” Bassil said.
Among them, Bassil said Lebanon should speak with Damascus about the possible return of refugees to their homes or to safe zones in their country as quickly as possible.
The Lebanese state is neglecting its duties in this regard... As the international community is seeking to freeze the refugees in Lebanon..., remaining mum is a crime, he added.
He also linked displacement to terrorism, saying “militants are sneaking in [to countries] on the pretext of being refugees to cause chaos.”
“Migration means poverty and chaos, which are both caused by, and could lead to wars... We cannot disregard the link between terrorism and migration,” Bassil said.
He pointed to the attacks in Paris and Brussels as examples, noting that Lebanon must not continue to satisfy “those talking about human rights at a time when they (the international community) are breaching them on their lands.”
The 13 November Paris attacks left 130 people dead, while this week’s attacks on the Brussels airport and the metro killed 31 people and wounded some 300. Both were claimed by ISIS.
Europe is today seeing the impact of the refugee crisis on their lands...but we (Lebanon) didn`t deport or use force like they (European countries) did, Bassil added.
He also criticized international donors and agencies that have failed to deliver billions of dollars in grants and aid to the Lebanese government to help it cope with the refugee crisis.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, who accompanied Ban on his visit to Lebanon, announced Thursday a $100 million loan to Lebanon’s education sector.
Islamic Development Bank chief Ahmad Mohammad Ali al-Madani announced that the bank and the Lebanese government had reached an understanding over five agreements that would provide aid worth $860 million.
Down the line, the Islamic Development Bank would give a further $400 million and then another $220 million.
Photo: Minister Gebran Bassil speaks during a press conference in Beirut. Source: The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir.