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Russian Official Tells Lebanese President Moscow will Support Repatriation of Syrian Refugees

Apr 16

Russian Official Tells Lebanese President Moscow will Support Repatriation of Syrian Refugees

A Russian official said that Russia will support Lebanon in returning Syrian refugees to their country, during a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister for Middle Eastern Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov said the pledge came “in light of the developments taking place,” according to a statement released by Aoun’s office, which did not elaborate on any plans to this end.

Bogdanov’s comments came during a meeting with Aoun in the Saudi city of Dhahran, after the Lebanese delegation arrived for the 29th Arab League summit being held there Sunday

Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose regime has been supported on the ground by Hezbollah for at least the last five years of Syria’s civil war. Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement is allied with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Aoun spoke with Bogdanov about the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, calling for a “gradual return” as, he claimed, “several areas are now enjoying security stability after the fighting ended.”

The Lebanese government estimates roughly 1.5 million Syrians are residing in Lebanon, while the number registered with the U.N. refugee agency in Lebanon dropped below 1 million by the end of last year.

After the meeting, Bogdanov was also quoted as saying that bilateral relations had been discussed, in addition to developments in the region and the “crisis that the Arab family is witnessing at this stage.” They also discussed security and combating terrorism, Bogdanov said.

A date for an official visit by Aoun to Russia will be set after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration on May 7, Bodanov added. Putin was reelected last month with over 75 percent of the vote.

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