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Aoun Rejects Settlement, Stresses Refugees’ Safe Return to Syria | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Michel Aoun, President of Lebanon, addresses the general debate of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly. UN Photo/Cia Pak

New York – Lebanese President Michel Aoun stressed the urgent need to organize the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homeland after the situation in most of their first places of residence has stabilized.

In his official address before the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Aoun noted that Lebanon distinguished between “voluntary” and “safe” return, based on the reasons for displacement.

“Some call for the refugees’ voluntary return and we call for their safe return and differentiate between the two concepts,” Aoun noted.

“The claim that they will not be safe should they return to their country is an unacceptable excuse… If the Syrian state is carrying out reconciliation with the armed groups that it is fighting, wouldn’t it be able to do so with refugees who had fled war?” the Lebanese president asked.

He revealed that waves of displacement and refugees had increased Lebanon’s population by 50 percent, citing severe overcrowding, a deteriorating economic situation, and increased crime.

Aoun went on to warn that terrorists had taken shelter among the refugees, making the need to resettle displaced persons to their homelands urgent.

He also underlined Israel’s defiance of international resolutions, especially with regards to the conflict with the Palestinians, and said: “Israeli wars proved that the cannon, the tank, and the plane do not produce solutions or peace.”

He added: “There is no doubt that the crime of expelling the Palestinians from their land cannot be corrected by another crime committed against the Lebanese through the imposition of resettlement.”

Aoun said that terrorism has spread like wildfire to all continents and must be faced at its roots.

“No one knows how far this terrorism will reach and how it will end,” he stated, highlighting Lebanon’s recent victories against ISIS and other terrorist groups.

“Lebanon had been able to eliminate cells, as had recently been seen in its victories against ISIS along the border with Syria,” he noted.