Beirut – Lebanese Information Minister Melhem Riachi voiced the Lebanese Forces’ rejection of “any negotiations” between the Lebanese government and Syrian regime over the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “As partners in this government, we will not accept negotiations between the Lebanese government and Syrian regime, because it does not represent the Syrian people.”
“This has become a given,” he added.
The return of the refugees should be negotiated with the United Nations, stressed the minister.
As members of the Lebanese Forces, “we insist that the UN tackle the refugee file through a practical process that can achieve the desired goal,” Riachi said.
“If a refugee is linked to the regime, then he can return, without negotiations between the two governments, to regime-held areas. If he is not linked to the regime, then he will not return to these areas even if negotiations are held between the two governments,” he explained.
“We will not accept that the lives of people will be put in danger and that they fall prey to Syrian intelligence agencies,” he declared.
In addition, the information minister denied claims that Lebanese General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim has been tasked with negotiating with the Syrian regime over the refugees.
“Abbas has successful experience in negotiations, but this issue has not been brought up at cabinet,” he continued.
Differences between Lebanese factions over the refugee file have not threatened the government “because the Lebanese people want to keep Lebanese people neutral from regional developments,” said Riachi.
Furthermore, President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and all members of cabinet are concerned with restoring normalcy in Lebanon after two years of presidential vacuum that ended in November with Aoun’s election, stressed the Lebanese Forces official.