General Michel Aoun, President of the Republic, believed that the efforts made by some nations to integrate the Syrian refugees living in Lebanon into Lebanese society constituted “a crime that Lebanon will not accept at any cost, in addition to the fact that local, regional, and international laws forbid the expulsion of a people from their land for any reason.”
President Aoun met the Canadian Minister of International Development, Mr. Harjit S. Sagan, today at Baabda Palace.
The President informed Minister Sagan that “Lebanon is in the process of preparing a legal study that he will submit to the United Nations on the issue of Syrian displacement. We hope that friendly countries will support us, especially since the current situation in Syria helps to achieve the return of the displaced Syrians, since Lebanon is no longer able to bear the economic, social, health and security burdens resulting from the presence of about 1.5 million displaced Syrians on its territory”.
President Aoun also stressed that “There is no truth in what countries and international organizations are claiming that the returning Syrians will be subjected to persecution, imprisonment and other penalties, because about 500,000 Syrians have returned from Lebanon to Syria within groups whose return has been organized in batches during the past years by General Security, and they did not report any harassment they were subjected to after their return, in addition to the fact that Syrian officials officially announce that they want the return of their countrymen who wish to return”.
“With regard to these facts, we are now suspicious of the positions taken by some countries and organizations. If the goal is to settle the displaced Syrians in Lebanon, we reject that categorically as we previously rejected the settlement of the Palestinians on our land” the President asserted.
President Aoun also affirmed that “Lebanon has repeatedly asked international organizations to provide aid for Syrian refugees in Syrian territory and not in Lebanon, because this step encourages the displaced to return, but Lebanon’s requests in this regard did not receive a response, which raises our concern about what may be secretly prepared against Lebanon and the Lebanese”.
On the other hand, President Aoun thanked Minister Sagan for the assistance provided by Canada to Lebanon, after the Beirut Port blast, wishing that Canadian support would continue and bilateral relations would be strengthened in various fields, especially “Since the accumulations and errors in the management of state affairs that occurred during the past thirty years exploded all at once, and intensified with the poverty rate reaching 75 percent of the Lebanese people, which necessitates speedy extending a helping hand from brotherly and friendly countries, foremost of which is Canada, which has old relations with Lebanon, and which hosts on its soil about 400,000 people of Lebanese origin distributed over all Canadian provinces, many of whom have achieved several successes in various fields”.
In addition, President Aoun conveyed Minister Sagan his greetings to Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, thanking him for Canada’s solidarity with Lebanon.
The President also thanked Sagan for the role he played when he was Minister of Defense between 2015-2021 in supporting Lebanon militarily by training hundreds of Lebanese officers through the Canadian Military IMPACT Program to Combat Terrorism, and the Canadian Support Team in Lebanon for training and assistance in border control in the high mountains.
President Aoun then wished Minister Sagan, as Minister of International Development, to continue providing humanitarian, development, military and relief aid.
For his side, Minister Sagan had thanked President Aoun for receiving him and his accompanying delegation, and stressed Canada’s determination to continue providing aid to Lebanon, especially in terms of providing food security.
Minister Sagan also pointed out that his visit would be an occasion to review the needs and set priorities on urgent matters.
Sagan also expressed Canada’s welcome to the expected agreement between Lebanon and the International Monetary Fund, which will contribute to activating international support for Lebanon in general and Canadian support in particular.
“Canada supported the return of the displaced Syrians to their country, knowing that Canada hosted about 60,000 Syrian refugees, half of them from Lebanon” Minister Sagan said stressing that his country does not support the integration of the displaced into their host communities, and will continue to help solve the Syrian crisis.
Minister Sagan also emphasized the strength of Lebanese-Canadian relations, and on the active role of the Lebanese in Canada and their contribution to Canadian society.
On the Canadian side, the meeting was attended by: Canadia
n Ambassador to Lebanon, Chantal Chastenay, Political Adviser, Joel Montfils, Executive Director, Sean Boyd and Director of Communications, Tode Lane.
On the Lebanese side: Former Minister, Salim Jreissati, Director General of the Presidency of the Republic, Dr. Antoine Choucair, Lebanon’s Ambassador to Canada, Fadi Ziadeh, and advisors Mr. Rafic Shelala and Osama Khashab, attended.