Aoun tells UN: Lebanon rejects “any naturalization scheme”

President Michel Aoun stressed Wednesday in a speech at the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York that Lebanon rejects “any naturalization scheme” for the around two million Syrian and Palestinian refugees who live in the country.

“We categorically reject any naturalization scheme for (Palestinian) refugees or the displaced (Syrians),” Aoun said .

“I reiterate that my country is seeking a dignified, safe and sustainable return of the displaced to their homeland and we reject any procrastination or bargain over this existential file… It should not be linked to a political solution whose timing remains vague,” the president emphasized.

Aoun noted that the Syrians who have fled to Lebanon “are not political refugees,” seeing as “most of them have fled due to security situations or economic motives.”

“The largest part of Syrian territory has become safe and I have spoken of a safe return for Syrian refugees to their country, distinguishing between it and a voluntary return,” Aoun stated.

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun holds a map of Syria Refugee Response as he addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun holds a map of Syria Refugee Response as he addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

He also warned that “the huge numbers of Syrian refugees and the impact on the Lebanese society makes it impossible to continue to shoulder this burden.”

The president also voiced support for the Russian initiative that aims to repatriate Syrian refugees from Lebanon and the neighboring countries.

Separately, Aoun accused the international community of a double standard when dealing with the Middle East.

Criticizing the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel while cutting aid to Palestinians and to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, Aoun said that “history has taught us that injustice leads to war.”

“Absence of justice can lead to violence and terrorism,” he warned.

“Unfortunately, international political approaches to the Middle East still lack justice and there are double standards in this regard. The Palestinian question is an example of that,” Aoun lamented.