Aoun: Most displaced have expressed desire to return home

President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, held a series of diplomatic meetings at the presidential palace in Baabda, in which he outlined "Lebanon's positions on current local, regional and international developments."

Aoun was presented with the credentials of seven ambassadors, representing Qatar, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Ghana and Congo, in the presence of caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

The President received the Egyptian Ambassador to Lebanon, Nazih Al-Najari, who conveyed his country's keenness on developing Lebanese-Egyptian relations and activating them in all fields.

Najari stressed Egypt's interest in the situation in Lebanon, especially in speeding up the formation of a new government capable of facing the next stage.

In the presence of British Ambassador Chris Rampling, President Aoun welcomed a British parliamentary delegation from the Conservative Middle Eastern Council (CMEC), headed by Sir Hugo Swire.

The delegation conveyed to Aoun "the UK's interest in the situation in Lebanon and the progress made in several areas, especially in the field of Lebanese-British military cooperation."

Sir Swire expressed his country's desire to "strengthen economic cooperation with Lebanon," stressing "the importance of continued British support for the Lebanese Army, especially in terms of training and equipment."

President Aoun welcomed his guests, thanking "the attention given by Britain to the Lebanese Army, by means of continued support and training, which have indeed contributed to major security achievements, perhaps the most prominent of which defeating terrorist organizations and liberating Lebanon."

The Head of State uttered interest in "bolstering bilateral relations", briefing his guests on the political, security and social achievements made since he became in office, underlining the "economic reform plan that has been put in motion, and which the new government will implement in a bid to activate the Lebanese economy and render it productive."

In response to questions from members of the delegation, the President welcomed the "desire of British companies to invest in Lebanon," stressing that "these companies will find several areas of investment and additional opportunities, through the said national economic plan."

President Aoun also explained Lebanon's position on the issue of displaced Syrians, reiterating the demand for "the return of these people to the safe areas in Syria.

"Groups of displaced are leaving Lebanon on an optional basis, under the supervision of the Lebanese General Security. (...) The Lebanese State does not oblige the Syrian refugees to return. They are rather given the freedom to decide," he said, noting that "the repercussions of the Syrian exodus to Lebanon have ramped up and caused serious damage in various fields.

"There should not be a link between securing the voluntary and safe return of Syrians to their country and reaching a political solution, as that may take lengthy period of time to become reality," Aoun stressed.

He also briefed the delegation on the initiative he launched at the United Nations "to establish a human academy for meeting and dialogue in Lebanon, with the aim of contributing to bringing people closer, especially the youth, and establishing dialogue between cultures and religions, thus complementing Lebanon's role as a link between the East and the West."

The British delegation, in turn, promised to follow up on this vital matter.

On a different note, President Aoun welcomed, in the presence of caretaker Justice Minister Salim Jreissati, a Human Rights Watch delegation, headed by Kenneth Roth, on the occasion of the organization's meeting in Beirut, in appreciation of Lebanon's commitment to work for the preservation of human rights.

Roth expressed the happiness of the organization's board of directors with "the meeting held in Beirut", thanking "the cooperation provided by Lebanon to the organization," and highlighting the main concerns, "especially the issue of solid waste treatment after the adoption of the House of Representatives approved the relevant law.

Aoun praised the HRW's major achievements in the field of human rights, pointing out that "the law recently passed by the House of Representatives stems from the principle of decentralization, so that local administrations can choose the appropriate ways to dispose of waste."

Discussions also dealt with the situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the measures adopted to provide them with a voluntary return home, "especially those who fled to Lebanon to escape the deteriorating security conditions that prevailed in their villages and towns.

"The majority of those displaced have expressed desire to return home, and the Lebanese authorities have shown compliance with this desire," Aoun said.

Source: National News Agency

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