Lebanese FM calls for return of Syria to Arab League

Clay Curtis
January 20, 2019

He also proposed the creation of an Arab bank to finance "reconstruction and development" in Arab countries devastated by conflicts such as Syria and Yemen. "Their numbers are equivalent to almost half of Lebanon's population", he said, noting that Lebanon is a small country, with unsuitable infrastructure, limited resources and an overcrowded job market.

Qatar's government has been one of the main backers of Syrian insurgents who have tried, since the beginning of the civil war in 2011, to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The prime minister is scheduled to deliver Jordan's speech at the summit, which focuses on the importance of economic integration among Arab countries as a key factor in facing challenges in the Arab world.

Libya had chose to boycott the summit in protest at the removal of its flag near the summit's venue at the hands of AMAL Movement supporters. The Amal Movement had said that Libya should not be invited, and its supporters threatened to cut off Beirut's airport road to prevent the Libyan delegation from reaching the summit venue.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani will personally head his country's delegation to the Arab Economic and Development Summit in Beirut which will bring together representatives from major North African and Arab states.

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Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said on Saturday that Egypt plays a great role in the Arab region, describing as good Beirut-Cairo relations. Lebanon used the summit Sunday to call for the start of return of Syrian refugees to safe areas in their war-torn country even before a solution is reached to end the almost eight-year-old crisis that killed almost half a million people.

Rifts among Arab states over Syria and its ally Iran, on top of divisions inside Lebanon, have overshadowed the summit being held this weekend, with several leaders pulling out.

In December, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir made the first visit by any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since 2011, and the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus having closed it in 2012.

Mr Aoun on Sunday also spoke about the need to repatriate Syrian refugees.

"We call for a safe return of Syrian refugees to their country, especially to stable areas that can be reached and areas of low levels of violence", Aoun said in his opening address. Lebanon is hosting the regional economic summit from 20 January.

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