24 September 2013 Lebanese President Michel Sleiman today called on United Nations Member States to boost their assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians that have fled the crisis in their country, while urging for a political solution to end the conflict.
Calling the Syrian refugee crisis “the most pressing and biggest burden” facing Lebanon, Mr. Sleiman said his country’s resources have been stretched to their capacity, with more than one fourth of Lebanon’s population now made up of Syrian refugees.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of August this year, Lebanon was hosting more than 700,000 Syrian refugees.
While he thanked countries that had pledged donations in January, Mr. Sleiman stressed that these commitments have only been partially fulfilled as needs have dramatically increased.
“As it is not possible to impose on nations – and individuals – the “impossible”…it is important for me to reiterate, from this very rostrum, my call for your States to support the proposals I have already put forth, in order to ease this escalating burden […],” Mr. Sleiman said.
Those proposals include providing sufficient funds to meet the basic humanitarian and livelihood needs of Syrian refugees, consolidating frameworks and spaces to lodge refugees on Syrian territories that are out of reach of the ongoing conflict, and holding an international conference on the issue of Syrian refugees to look for ways to share the burdens and numbers among States.
He also called for support for the International Support Group for Lebanon, which “has placed the issue of the refugees at the top of its priority list – all of this pending the sought political solution for the Syrian crisis, which would ensure a safe and dignified return of the refugees to their country, as soon as possible.”
Mr. Sleiman emphasized that while Lebanon remains committed to Baabda Declaration, which sets out Lebanon’s disassociation from the negative fallout of regional crises. The Lebanese will continue to support friendly countries facing the negative repercussions of external conflicts.
“Not only do [the Lebanese] look up to that assistance out of brotherly and friendly solidarity, but also based on the common responsibility thrust upon the international community as a whole, regarding the problems which pose a threat to regional and global security in general,” he said.
He is one of scores of leaders to speak at the annual General Assembly session at which heads of State and Government and other high-level officials will present their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance. The General debate opened today and concludes on 1 October.
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