Arab economic summit in Beirut urges Syrian refugee returns
20 January, 2019, 22:17
"Lebanon calls on the global community to make all efforts possible and provide suitable conditions for a safe return of displaced Syrians.without linking that with reaching a political solution", Aoun said.
"Indeed, the internal wars, the proliferation of the phenomenon of terrorism and extremism, the emergence of unparalleled waves of displaced and refugees since World War II, impacted adversely the course of development which is making its way with difficulty in the region, especially in some States which originally suffered from socio-economic problems", President Aoun was quoted as saying by the official National News Agency.
Lebanon is home to some 1 million Syrian refugees, a quarter of the country's population.
Syria's conflict has led to the displacement of half the country's population and created more than 5 million refugees, who fled mostly to neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
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This led to numerous 20 participating nations to send lower ranking representatives in place of their heads of state in the wake of the violent reaction of a group of Amal Movement supporters calling for Libya's exclusion, coupled with the discord over Syria's suspended participation.
The refugee issue was to be one of the main points on the agenda of this year's summit, and Aoun said he had put forward measures that would ease their return.
He called on pre-existing Arab development banks to convene in Beirut within the next three months to discuss the proposal and other measures to address the need for reconstruction and economic assistance in light of current conditions.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said almost half of all refugees "come from our Arab world".
Seven Arab leaders had been expected at Sunday's summit but only Sheikh Tamim and the president of Mauritania came to Beirut.
"The Beirut shock. a summit without heads of state", the country's oldest Arabic-language newspaper An-Nahar said. Syria, whose Arab League membership has been suspended since 2011, and Libya are not taking part in the meeting.
Aoun expressed his "regret" that most Arab heads of state had failed to attend the summit, saying they had "no excuse for their absence".
Lebanese politicians have stepped up calls for refugees to go home now that Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has recovered control over most of the country with Russian and Iranian help. Its critics oppose this, insisting the United Nations must oversee any repatriations.
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