08/22/2018, 11.10
SYRIA - LEBANON
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Assad and Aoun discuss ways and means for the return of Syrian refugees from Lebanon

In seven years of conflict over one million Syrians have fled to the land of the cedars; the goal is to accelerate their return home. Damascus and Beirut intend to strengthen security cooperation for border patrolling and land control. The links with Assad are a source of internal political confrontation in Lebanon.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun recently discussed the refugee problem, one of the most serious consequences of the conflict that has been bloodying Syria for seven years, in a telephone conversation. According to sources of al-Akhbar newspaper, the two leaders have investigated ways and means "to accelerate their return home".

In addition to the refugee emergency, Damascus and Beirut have begun a series of talks to strengthen cooperation on the military level, confirming a growing stabilization of Syria. In this context the head of the Lebanese army Jospeh Aoun also held talks with his Syrian counterpart Ali Abdullah Ayoub, who also holds the position of Minister of Defense. The objective is to create a "joint security coordination" between the two countries. for a better control of the borders and to counter the extremist and terrorist activities of the groups present on the territory.

The controversial issue of commercial and diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria has long been the subject of discussions and bitter controversy between Beirut's political and government leadership. The current premier Saad Hariri, a Sunni close to Riyadh, has recently declared that there will be no government if the pro-Damascus faction insists "in the restoration" of the ties with neighboring Syria. However, according to pro-Hezbollah journalist Salem Zahran, the Prime Minister later informed the leaders of the radical Shia movement that his words were a "slip."

On the subject of refugees, in January a Lebanese minister had spoken of a drop to below one million. However, according to UN experts, the situation is getting more complicated and today they are "more vulnerable than ever". Nine out of 10 have applied for cash loans and are now overwhelmed with debt. Each household spends on average $ 98 a month, 44 of which are used for eating.

According to UN figures, 84% of refugees find refuge in Turkey (which hosts 2.9 million people), Pakistan (1.4 million), Lebanon (over one million, out of a total of four million inhabitants), Iran (979.400 migrants), Uganda (940.800) and Ethiopia (761.600).

The refugee problem is the cause of a progressive economic and social weakening for Lebanon, now more and more on the verge of collapse. Caritas experts have recently defined the burden as "unsustainable". Nevertheless, Beirut has made great efforts in these years of conflict, working to "protect, promote and integrate" as desired by Pope Francis in his Message 2018 for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

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