Martin Huth said on Thursday that the United Nations and countries contributing to aid programs for more than a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon were “fully committed to an eventual return of refugees to Syria.”
He, however, said the international view was that it was not yet safe for Syrian refugees to return, Presstv Reported.
“At the same time, and while we do not oppose voluntary returns to Syria, conditions in that country, in our view, do not allow for a general and comprehensive return of refugees at this time,” he added.
The Germany envoy added that the international community was doing its best to help Lebanon cope with the massive influx of refugees in its southern and eastern territories.
“Many of us are doing all we can to alleviate the situation,” Huth said, adding that the international community was “fully aware of the heavy burden Lebanon is bearing.”
The comments came after Lebanese authorities accused the donors, UN and foreign countries of trying to prevent the return of Syrian refugees.
Caretaker foreign minister Gebran Bassil has said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and certain members of the international community were blocking the return of refugees. Bassil announced last week a freeze on applications for residency permits by UNHCR staff members in Lebanon.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun also said in April that one could feel from statements in the international community that a “disguised settlement” plan existed for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. He said such a plan contradicted Lebanon’s sovereignty and constitution.
In new remarks on Thursday, the Lebanese president said that Syrian refugees could return to their country in several phases.
“Lebanon considers that a return has become possible in stages to areas that have become safe and stable in Syria, which are five times the size of Lebanon,” said Aoun in his Twitter page, adding, “Most displaced people in Lebanon are from these areas which have become secure.”
Syria has been gripped by militancy caused by multiple factions and groups since March 2011. The foreign-backed crisis has killed hundreds of thousands.
Backed by Russia and other allies, the Syrian government has liberated key areas in north and east of the country from the grip of Takfiri terrorist militants.