Lebanese PM rejects allegations of hindering refugees' return on pretext of no direct talks with Syrian gov't

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-15 03:39:08|Editor: yan
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BEIRUT, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday rejected allegations that his country is obstructing the the return of Syrian refugees on the pretext of no direct talks with the Syrian government, a local TV Channel reported.

"We will not accept the accusation that we are obstructing refugees' return due to the absence of an open dialogue with the Syrian regime," the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) quoted Hariri as saying.

"Some of Lebanon's security agencies are already in direct contact with Syrian authorities for this purpose," he added.

According to the prime minister, Lebanon is focusing on a Russian strategy to "guarantee a secure, safe and voluntary return of Syrian refugees."

Hariri's remarks came during an event in the capital Beirut to mark the 14th anniversary of the assassination of his father and former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

More than 1 million Syrian refugees are registered with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon, while the government estimates the true number of Syrians in the country at 1.5 million.

Hariri, a long-time supporter of the Syrian opposition, has announced on several occasions that Lebanon will not negotiate directly with the Syrian government on the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.

Hariri has been handling the refugee crisis on the basis of a strategy drafted by Russia, after a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump last year in Helsinki, capital of Finland.