Prime Minister Saad Hariri Thursday requested almost $3 billion in funding from the international community to support long-term projects to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their home country.
“We must secure the appropriate funding for Lebanon’s response plan to the crisis. For this reason we request $2.9 billion worth of funds because it will ensure stability for long-term projects,” Hariri said in a speech at Thursday’s opening session of the third Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region.
“The only solution to the refugee crisis lies in their safe return to their homeland in accordance with international laws and treaties,” Hariri said during a speech.
The Lebanese premier expressed his gratitude for the support already received from members of the international community. He noted that his country has been committed to the requirements of the previous Brussels conference, which would not have been possible without international support.
At the same time, he called on them to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to allow refugees to return to their homeland.
“I hope there will be no fourth or fifth Brussels [Conference],” Hariri told reporters at the conference. He added that “the Syrian regime must be pressured by friends and allies to return the refugees to their [home] country.”
Hariri said it was “abnormal” that upwards of 10 million refugees are outside Syria.
When asked about the potential return of Syria to the Arab League, Hariri told reporters that this was the Arab League as a whole must make the decision, and that Lebanon will follow whatever is decided.
Hariri arrived in Brussels Wednesday night for the third Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, a statement from Hariri’s office reported.
He is heading the Lebanese delegation, which includes Education Minister Akram Chehayeb, Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumjian and Lebanese Ambassador to Belgium Fadi Hajj Ali.
The Lebanese premier will also hold meetings on the sidelines of the conference with Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy; Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner for European neighborhood policy; and Filippo Grandi, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.
Before Hariri’s arrival at the conference, which began two days earlier, the Lebanese delegation met with officials from the U.N., the EU and the United States, and relayed to them the humanitarian and economic strain the refugee crisis is putting on Lebanon.
Hariri had said Tuesday that the conference would be an “essential opportunity” to discuss developing stances toward the return of refugees to their homeland from Lebanon.
He is expected to emphasize in Brussels that there can be no solution to the crisis other than the return of Syria.