Beirut – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri renewed his call on the international community to “assume its responsibilities” towards the Syrian people and refugees in Lebanon, warning that the country can “no longer support the burden of 2.5 million displaced.”
He told France 24: “The international community should invest 10 to 12 billion dollars in Lebanon over seven years in order to allow it to support the Syrians and achieve economic revival.”
He made his remarks ahead of his departure on a European tour that includes Paris, Berlin and Brussels where he will take part in the “Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” on April 5.
He noted that the Lebanese population ranges between 4.2 to 4.5 million, add to that 2.5 million Syrians and half a million Palestinian refugees, meaning that 40 percent of the country is comprised of refugees.
Asked about the possibility of deporting the Syrians back to their homeland, he replied: “We do not want to do so, but we are saying that if the situation in Lebanon took a turn to the worse, then we will no longer be able to control them.”
“That is why investing in Lebanon is investing in their stay in the country. This is not a permanent situation, but long enough until they return home,” added the premier.
He said that Lebanon is keen on their return once the war in the neighboring country is over or until safe zones under the supervision of the United Nations are established there.
Asked about the shift in American strategy on Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad, Hariri commented: “There is no difference between the American remarks and the European ones, who have said from the start that the Syrian people should decide their own future.”
“The Americans are now saying that Assad is no longer a priority and I assert that the Syrians should decide who should govern them,” explained the Lebanese official.
“I believe that some forces want Assad to stay, but that is not the solution. The solution lies in eliminating ISIS and Bashar al-Assad. We should not forget that the Syrian regime, not ISIS, has until this day killed 700,000 Syrians,” he stressed to France 24.
On “Hezbollah’s” participation in the war in Syria and its effect on Lebanon, Hariri noted that there is a “radical difference on this issue between us and them.”
“This political difference does not affect the management of Lebanon however,” he stated.
“What the party is doing in Syria is wrong and there is nothing I can say that will convince it to think otherwise and it will not say anything that will convince me of its position either,” he continued.
Hariri did note however that “Hezbollah’s” actions are affecting Lebanon’s security even if it does not share this view.
The Lebanese official also tackled ties with Saudi Arabia, saying that tensions had recently affected the “historic” relationship between the two countries, but they have now been restored to what they once were.
“They will witness great improvement in the future,” he said, while revealing the formation of a higher Lebanese-Saudi committee to study economic and military affairs.