person:gebran bassil

  • Tension grows in Lebanon over refugees in #Beqaa

    Tension remains high on Monday in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, following the forced displacement of hundreds of Syrian refugees at the weekend.

    Local media reported the possibility that about 400 refugees, including many women and children, may be forcibly transferred to Syria, which is where they originally fled from the armed conflict that is still underway.

    The epicentre of the refugee tension in Lebanon is in #Deir al-Ahmar in the northern Beqaa Valley.

    Since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011, over a million Syrians have taken refuge in Lebanon, a country whose own population is less than four million.

    Lebanese authorities have recently intensified the dismantling of refugee camps and increased pressure on the refugee community.

    Lebanon did not sign the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, and since 2011 the country has considered the presence of “foreign guests” in its territory as a temporary situation.
    #réfugiés #réfugiés_syriens #Liban #asile #migrations #expulsions #renvois #retour_au_pays #camps_de_réfugiés #démantèlement

    • Thousands of Syrian refugees could be sent back, says Lebanese minister

      Gebran Bassil claims many refugees are not living in political fear, but stay for economic reasons.

      As many as three quarters of Syrian refugees in Lebanon could return to Syria because they face no fear of political persecution or threat to their security, Lebanon’s controversial foreign minister has said.

      Gebran Bassil also urged the UK to rethink how it was spending aid money on keeping 1.5 million refugees in Lebanon, where he said they were taking the jobs from the Lebanese, and undercutting wages.

      The UK has supplied as much as £500m to help house, feed and educate Syrian refugees in Lebanon since the start of the ciivl war in 2011.

      Bassil is the son in law of the president, Michel Aoun, and the leader of the Lebanese Free Patriotic Movement, the largest political party in the country’s parliament. Last week he faced allegations of racism that he denies after it was alleged he had implied that some refugees might be corrupt.

      In an interview with the Guardian, he said: “Most of the Syrians – much more than 75% – are no more in security and political fear, but are staying for economic reasons. We know more than 500,000 Syrians working in Lebanon. They are working every where in breach of our labour laws, and yet even though they break the law they are not being repatriated.

      “They are working in Lebanon, taking jobs from the Lebanese because they paid at cheaper rate because they have no taxes to pay and they are being assisted on top of the wages they are paid.”

      Aid agencies working with refugees have cited concerns over loss of property and conscription into the Syrian army and fear of reprisals as major reasons why they did not want to return home. The agencies have resisted Lebanese government efforts to tear down any semi-permanent structure put up by refugees.

      Bassil insisted it was not his government’s policy to try to force Syrians to return to their homeland.

      He added: “The British taxpayers are paying money for an unlimited period of time that is not being spent in the right direction. They should be paid to return to their country. As President Trump said, money spent on a refugee to go back to his country is much much less than to keep him out of his country.”

      He defended his country’s record of welcoming Syrian refugees. He said: “No one country did what Lebanon did. No one country is able to host 200 refugees per square kilometre, more than 40% of its population. Imagine here in Britain you are receiving 50 million people. That is the comparison.

      “Despite all that we have endured we never thought of forcing anyone to return. We are talking of a dignified and safe gradual return for people who are willing. That now applies to the majority of Syrians in Lebanon because now most of Syria is safe and most of those in Lebanon do not face any political or security obstacles for their return. They are staying because they are assisted to stay in the Lebanon, and if they go back to Syria they will lose that assistance. This is the main reason.”

      Bassil added: “They are receiving aid for every aspect of their lives they are receiving free education, shelter and healthcare. They are better covered on health than the Lebanese. They are afraid that once they leave, they will lose the assistance”.

      He said the number of movements across the border is 700,000 to 800,000 a month, and people who hold refugee cards go regularly to Syria and come back to Lebanon.

      “The tension is mounting internally. Our economy is really collapsing. How can you put your own economy on your feet when you carry this burden.”

      Bassil also denied that any of his remarks could be construed as racist, arguing every country puts its citizens first.

  • Lebanon looks to hardline eastern Europe approach for Syrian refugees

    Lebanon said on Wednesday it wanted to follow the example of eastern EU states that have largely rejected refugees as a way of resolving its own refugee crisis.
    Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil sympathized with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia’s refusal to accept refugee distribution quotas proposed by the EU after the 2015-16 migrant crisis, when more than a million people streamed into Europe, mostly from Syria.
    Populist eastern EU leaders including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Poland’s powerbroker Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Czech President Milos Zeman, among others, blasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “open door” policy on accepting migrants during that period.
    These countries “were acting in their national interest and decided that the redistribution of refugees among European countries is not in their national interest, although they faced EU sanctions for that,” Bassil told reporters in Prague.
    “I would like this attitude to be an inspiration for Lebanon, because every state must make national interests its top priority and at this moment Lebanon’s key national interest is the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland,” he added.
    Lebanon says it is hosting 1.5 million Syrians — around a quarter of its own population. Less than one million of them are registered with UN refugee agency the UNHCR.
    Most of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in insecurity and depend on international aid.
    The International Monetary Fund has said their presence has led to increased unemployment and a rise in poverty due to greater competition for jobs.
    The influx has also put strain on Lebanese water and electrical infrastructure.
    Lebanese government officials and politicians have ramped up calls for Syrians to return home, but the United Nations has consistently warned that conditions in the war-ravaged country are not suitable for such returns.
    “I would like Prague or Beirut to host a meeting, an initiative of countries seeking to plan and ensure the return of Syrian refugees to their country,” said Bassil.
    “This would be immensely useful for both Lebanon and Syria and in general it would be the best solution to the human, humanitarian and political crisis we have right now and which could get worse in the future,” he said.
    #Liban #it_has_begun #modèle_hongrois #asile #migrations #réfugiés #réfugiés_syriens #intérêt_national #populisme #modèle_Visegrad #retour_au_pays

  • « Hezbollah = Liban », selon le ministre israélien de l’Éducation
    Par Le avec Reuters Mis à jour le 07/05/2018

    « Hezbollah = Liban », écrit sur Twitter Naftali Bennett, qui est aussi ministre de l’Education et président du parti d’ultra-droite Le Foyer juif. « L’Etat d’Israël ne fera pas de différence entre l’Etat souverain du Liban et le Hezbollah et considérera le Liban comme responsable de toute action en provenance de son territoire », ajoute le ministre. Selon les résultats préliminaires, le Hezbollah (Parti de Dieu, chiite) devrait remporter plus de la moitié des sièges au Parlement libanais.


  • Attaques israéliennes en Syrie : le Liban va protester à l’ONU contre les violations de son espace aérien

    Des fragments de missiles s’abattent à Marjeyoun et Riyak.

    Le Liban a dénoncé samedi les frappes israéliennes en Syrie voisine et va adresser une lettre au Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU pour protester contre « l’utilisation par Israël de l’espace aérien libanais pour mener ses attaques contre la Syrie », selon un communiqué des Affaires étrangères.

    « Le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Gebran Bassil, a donné ses directives à la mission libanaise permanente à l’ONU afin de déposer une plainte auprès du Conseil de sécurité, condamnant Israël et mettant en garde contre la violation de l’espace aérien libanais dans le but de commettre des attaques en Syrie », peut-on lire dans le communiqué du ministère des A.E.

    « La politique belliqueuse israélienne menace la stabilité de la région. C’est pour cela que le Liban demande aux Etats concernés de juguler l’action d’Israël afin qu’il cesse ses agressions », conclut le communiqué.

    L’Etat hébreu a frappé samedi des cibles militaires syriennes mais aussi « iraniennes » et a perdu un de ses appareils au cours de l’opération, la plus grave du genre impliquant les trois pays depuis des années. C’est la première fois que l’armée israélienne dit ouvertement avoir pris pour cible des « cibles iraniennes » en Syrie depuis le début en 2011 de la guerre chez le voisin syrien, où l’Iran aide militairement le régime de Bachar el-Assad.

  • Israel, Lebanon clash over offshore energy, raising tensions

    Depuis le temps que cette affaire traîne…

    (carte avec la position libanaise, la revendication israélienne est en pointillés - ce qui n’est pas si fréquent…)

    Israel described as “very provocative” on Wednesday a Lebanese offshore oil and gas exploration tender in disputed territory on the countries’ maritime border, and said it was a mistake for international firms to participate.

    Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, whose country considers Israel an enemy state, said the comments were one of several “threatening messages” from Israel in recent days.

    Lebanese political and military movement Hezbollah vowed to defend the country’s “oil and gas rights” against Israeli threats.

    Lebanon is on the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean where a number of big sub-sea gas fields have been discovered since 2009, including the Leviathan and Tamar fields located in Israeli waters near the disputed marine border with Lebanon.

    Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “When they issue a tender on a gas field, including Block 9, which by any standard is ours ... this is very, very challenging and provocative conduct here.

    Respectable firms” bidding on the tender “are, to my mind, making a grave error - because this is contrary to all of the rules and all protocol in cases like this,” he told an international security conference hosted by Tel Aviv University’s INSS think-tank.

    Lebanon in December approved a bid by a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek for two of the five blocks put up for tender in the country’s much-delayed first oil and gas offshore licensing round.

    One of the awarded blocks, Block 9, borders Israeli waters. Lebanon has an unresolved maritime border dispute with Israel over a triangular area of sea of around 860 sq km (330 square miles) that extends along the edge of three of the blocks.

    Israel has not issued its own tenders for Block 9, with its officials saying they were focused on blocks that would not be disputed.

    Lieberman’s words about Block 9 are a threat to Lebanon and its right to sovereignty over its territorial waters,” Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on his official Twitter account.

    Hariri said the country would take up the comments with the “relevant international bodies to affirm its right to act in its territorial waters”. In a statement from his press office, the premier said Lieberman’s words were “blatant provocation”.

    Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said he had sent a letter to the United Nations two weeks ago affirming Lebanon’s right to defend itself and its economic interests.

    Hezbollah described the comments as “a new aggression” and said it would “decisively confront any assault on our oil and gas rights.”

  • Ambassade du Liban à Jérusalem : projet ambitieux ou surenchère politique ?
    Yara ABI AKL | OLJ | 15/12/2017

    Au lendemain de l’appel lancé par l’Organisation de la coopération islamique (OCI) à reconnaître Jérusalem-Est comme capitale de la Palestine en réponse à la décision américaine de considérer la Ville sainte capitale d’Israël, le chef de la diplomatie, Gebran Bassil, a voulu aller plus loin. Il a soumis au Conseil des ministres tenu hier à Baabda une demande d’ouverture d’une ambassade du Liban (auprès de la Palestine) à Jérusalem.

    Mais le gouvernement s’est contenté de former une commission ministérielle pour étudier cette proposition. De source informée, on apprend que ce comité présidé par le chef du gouvernement, Saad Hariri, comprend les ministres : Gebran Bassil, Salim Jreissati (Justice, bloc aouniste), Ali Hassan Khalil (Finances, Amal), Mohammad Fneich (Jeunesse et Sports, Hezbollah), Marwan Hamadé (Éducation, bloc Joumblatt) et Nouhad Machnouk (Intérieur, courant du Futur).

    Si la proposition de M. Bassil, qui intervient une semaine après la décision américaine, tend à montrer que le Liban officiel reste à la pointe du combat pour la cause palestinienne, il n’empêche qu’aux yeux de nombreux observateurs, elle reflète surtout un manque de réalisme politique. « Une décision d’une aussi grande importance devrait être exécutée en collaboration avec d’autres pays, et non d’une manière unilatérale », déclare à L’Orient-Le Jour un ministre qui a requis l’anonymat. Se félicitant de ce qu’il appelle « une bonne idée » présentée par Gebran Bassil, le ministre a mis en garde contre la « surenchère politique » qui ressort de telles initiatives.


    Ambassade du Liban à Jérusalem : la proposition de Bassil, plus morale que pratique...
    Khalil FLEYHANE | OLJ | 15/12/2017

    La proposition du ministre des Affaires étrangères, Gebran Bassil, d’établir une ambassade du Liban à Jérusalem-Est et de reconnaître, de ce fait, Jérusalem comme capitale de la Palestine est plus « morale que pratique », selon Sami Baroudi, professeur en sciences politiques à la Lebanese American University (LAU).
    « La suggestion de M. Bassil va à l’encontre de l’accord de Genève (établi en 2003 et qui prévoit entre autres le partage de la souveraineté sur Jérusalem qui serait la capitale des deux États palestinien et israélien) et d’une décision du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU en 1980 qui interdit la création d’ambassades à Jérusalem », souligne M. Baroudi, interrogé par L’Orient-Le Jour.

    Le chef de la diplomatie a proposé hier au président palestinien, Mahmoud Abbas, un échange de terrains entre le Liban et la Palestine, afin de pouvoir créer l’ambassade en question, ainsi qu’une ambassade palestinienne à Beyrouth. M. Abbas lui aurait promis d’œuvrer rapidement afin d’octroyer au Liban une parcelle de terrains à Jérusalem-Est.(...)

    • Not Without Dignity: Views of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon on Displacement, Conditions of Return, and Coexistence

      Discussions about a future return of refugees and coexistence among groups currently at war in Syria must begin now, even in the face of ongoing violence and displacement. This report, based on interviews with refugees, makes it clear that the restoration of dignity will be important to creating the necessary conditions for return and peaceful coexistence — and building a stable post-war Syria one day.

    • New ICTJ Study: Syrian Refugees in Lebanon See Security, Restoration of Dignity as Key Conditions for Return

      A new report from the International Center for Transitional Justice argues that discussions about a future return of refugees and coexistence among groups currently at war in Syria must begin now, even in the face of ongoing violence and displacement. The report makes it clear that the restoration of refugees’ sense of dignity will be important to creating the necessary conditions for return and peaceful coexistence — and building a stable post-war Syria one day.

    • We Must Start the Conversation About Return of Syrian Refugees Now

      If millions of displaced Syrians are to go home one day, we need to understand refugees’ conditions for returning, attitudes to justice and the possibility of coexistence, say the authors of an International Center for Transitional Justice study of refugees in Lebanon.

    • Nowhere Left to Run: Refugee Evictions in Lebanon in Shadow of Return

      Lebanon wants to evict 12,000 refugees who live near an air base where foreign military assistance is delivered. The evictions, which began in spring and recently resumed after a short respite, have left refugees more vulnerable amid rising demands they return to Syria.

    • Syrian Refugees Return From Lebanon Only to Flee War Yet Again

      Refugees who returned to Syria from Lebanon under cease-fire deals this summer have been displaced again by fighting. Those who stayed behind are pressing for international guarantees of safety on return, as Lebanese officials explore ways to get more refugees to leave.

    • Dangerous Exit: Who Controls How Syrians in Lebanon Go Home

      AS HALIMA clambered into a truck leaving Lebanon in late June, she resolved that if the men driving the vehicle were arrested at the Syrian border, she would get out and walk back to her village on her own. The 66-year-old grandmother had not seen the son and daughter she left behind in Syria for five years. Wearing an embroidered black dress and a traditional headdress, her crinkled eyes shone with determination. “I’m coming back to my land,” she said.

      Having begged her not to leave, Halima’s two daughters staying in Lebanon wept on her shoulders. “We’re afraid she won’t come back,” 42-year-old Sherifa said, as her voice cracked. Sherifa cannot follow her mother to Syria; her eldest son, who has single-handedly kept the family afloat with odd jobs because of his father’s disability, would be sent to war.

      Huddled in groups at the checkpoint in northeast Lebanon, other families also said their goodbyes. A teenage girl knelt on the dirt road, refusing to let go of her 19-year-old brother’s legs. Their mother, Nawal, held her as he left for a truck to the border. “I don’t know how he will live on his own in Syria. Only God knows what will happen to him,” Nawal said. “I didn’t think he would actually leave. It all happened very fast.”

      A few months earlier, 3,000 Syrians in the Lebanese border town of Arsal had registered their names with Syrian and Lebanese intelligence agencies to return to their villages just over the mountains in Syria’s Qalamoun region. When the first group of several hundred people was approved to leave on June 28, many families were separated, as some members either decided not to register or were not approved by Syrian authorities.

      “We need a political solution for these people to go back, but the politics doesn’t start here in Lebanon,” a Lebanese intelligence agent said, as a scuffle broke out that scorching June morning. A Syrian man lunged at Khaled Abdel Aziz, a real estate businessman who had been put in charge of signing up fellow refugees to return. Abdel Aziz sweated in his suit as he dashed between television interviews, repeating that Syrians had a country of their own to go back to. “You’re protecting the army, not protecting yourself,” the man yelled, before being pulled away.

      The TV cameras rolled as dozens of trucks and tractors piled high with timber, water tanks and chicken coops were checked off a list by Lebanese intelligence agents and headed with an army escort to the Syrian border. A line of TV reporters announced to their Lebanese viewers that these refugees were going home.

      The next day, on the other side of Arsal, a small group of refugees held a sit-in, to much less fanfare. “We’re asking for return with dignity,” one banner read, “with guarantees from the international community and the U.N.”

      “We’re not against the return, but we want conditions, guarantees,” said Khaled Raad, one of the organizers. His refugee committee has been petitioning the U.N. and sympathetic Lebanese politicians for international protection for returning Syrians for a year. “I mean, this is not like taking a cup of tea or coffee to say, after seven years, go ahead and return to your houses. It’s not an easy thing.”


      By then, Halima had arrived back in Syria. Apart from some tractors breaking down en route, they had no problem crossing the border. Halima went to stay with her son while she waited to hear about the situation in her hometown, the mountaintop village of Fleeta. Her granddaughters had grown up quickly while she was in Lebanon, and she loved spending time with them in the neighboring town.

      But as more of their friends and relatives returned to Fleeta, with subsequent groups departing Arsal in July, word came to the family of empty homes and little power, water or work in the Syrian village. Sherifa received messages from relatives who had returned to Fleeta but now wanted to escape again. With no easy way to come back to Lebanon legally, they planned to smuggle themselves back across the border.

      Without her mother, and with bad news from Fleeta making it less likely she would ever return to Syria, Sherifa became increasingly desperate. Her husband, who is unable to work for health reasons, sunk into depression. “By God, dying is better than living,” Sherifa said. “I seek refuge in God from this return.”

      RETURNING TO SYRIA during this eighth year of conflict is both an excruciating personal decision and a political calculation: by refugees, the government in Syria, and other nations with a stake in the war. As the government recaptures more territory from opposition groups, and fighting quells in certain areas, some refugees are considering returning, while others are terrified of the increasing pressure to go back. After Lebanon began organizing small group returns this year, including from Arsal, these dilemmas became more urgent.

      To return is to take a political gamble: Refugees must weigh the risks of staying against the risks of going. They try to figure out who can be trusted to tell them the truth. They gather snippets of information from their cities, towns and villages about what happens to people who return. They struggle to decipher the intentions of the mercurial and multi-layered Syrian authorities and their foreign allies.

      Some of the broader dangers are well-known: an estimated half a million people killed in Syria’s war, including thousands dead this year; some one million people forced to leave their homes this year alone; a third of all houses and half of all schools and hospitals damaged or destroyed; in government-controlled areas, mandatory conscription into battle for men under 43, fear of arrest and torture, and the difficulties of reintegrating into a society and economy fractured by war.

      Until now, few refugees have considered this a risk worth taking. In 2017, the U.N. said 77,300 refugees went back independently to Syria, out of 5.6 million who had fled the country. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have consistently told U.N. and independent surveys they hoped to return home one day, but do not yet feel safe to do so.

      There are also risks to staying. More than 80 percent of Syrian refugees remain in three neighboring countries: Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. There, they face soaring poverty, years out of work or school, lack of official documents, risk of arrest and, above all, an increasing public clamoring for Syrians to be sent back.

      In Lebanon, where at least 1.5 million Syrians have sought refuge – increasing the country’s population by a quarter – the pressure to leave is the most intense. Few Syrians have legal status, even fewer can work. Many towns have imposed curfews or carried out mass evictions. At the U.N. General Assembly last year, Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun insisted Syrians must return, voluntarily or not. “The claim that they will not be safe should they return to their country is an unacceptable pretext,” he told world leaders.

    • Turkish minister: 255,300 Syrian refugees have returned home

      Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Sunday that 255,300 Syrian refugees have returned home over the past two years, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

      “Some 160,000 of them returned to the Euphrates Shield region after Turkey brought peace there,” added Soylu, speaking to reporters in the southern province of Hatay bordering Syria.

      Turkey carried out Operation Euphrates Shield between August 2016 and March 2017 to eliminate the terrorist threat along the border in the northern Syrian regions of Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Al-Bab and Azaz with the help of the Free Syrian Army.

      Expressing concern about a possible operation in the Idlib region of Syria by regime forces, the minister underlined that Turkey would not be responsible for a wave of migration in the event of an offensive.

      Soylu also noted that an average of 6,800 irregular migrants a day used to enter Greece from western Turkey in 2015 and that now it has been reduced to 79.

    • The fate of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Between forced displacement and forced return

      Recent news reports have surfaced on a possible United States-Russia deal to arrange for the return of refugees to Syria—reports that coincided both with the announcement that thousands of Syrians have died in regime prisons, and with one of the worst massacres in the conflict, perpetrated by ISIS in the city of Swaida. The US-Russia deal has been welcomed by Lebanese politicians, particularly those who have been scheming to repatriate Syrians for years now. But, unsurprisingly, the absence of a clear and coherent strategy for repatriation by the Lebanese government puts Syrian refugees at grave risk.

      In June, UNHCR interviewed Syrian refugees in Arsal who had expressed their willingness to go back to Syria in order to verify that they had the documentation needed for return and to ensure they were fully aware of the conditions in their home country. In response, caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil accused the agency of impeding refugees’ free return and ordered a freeze on the renewal of agency staff residency permits.

      This tug of war raises two main questions: What are the conditions in Lebanon that are pushing refugees toward returning to Syria while the conflict is ongoing and dangers persist? And what are the obstacles preventing some Syrians from returning freely to their homes?

      Conditions for Syrians in Lebanon

      Syrians began fleeing to Lebanon as early as 2011, but the Lebanese government failed to produce a single policy response until 2014, leading to ad-hoc practices by donors and host communities.

      By the end of 2014, the government began introducing policies to “reduce the number of displaced Syrians,” including closing the borders and requiring Syrians to either register with UNHCR and pledge not to work, or to secure a Lebanese sponsor to remain legally in the country and pay a $200 residency permit fee every six months. In May 2015, the government directed UNHCR to stop registering refugees. These conditions put many Syrians in a precarious position: without documentation, vulnerable to arrest and detention, and with limited mobility. Municipalities have been impeding freedom of movement as well, by imposing curfews on Syrians and even expelling them from their towns.

      In addition to the difficulties imposed by the state, Syrians face discrimination and violence on a day-to-day basis. Refugee settlements have been set on fire, Syrians have been beaten in the streets, and camps are regularly raided by the Lebanese army. All the while, Lebanese politicians foster and fuel the hatred of Syrians, blaming them for the country’s miseries and painting them as existential and security threats.

      Despite the polarization among Lebanese politicians regarding the situation in Syria, there is a consensus that the Syrian refugees are a burden that Lebanon cannot bear. Politicians across the board have been advocating for the immediate repatriation of refugees, and state officials are beginning to take action. President Michel Aoun made a statement in May declaring that Lebanon would seek a solution regarding the refugee crisis without taking into account the preferences of the UN or the European Union. This was followed by Bassil’s move, to freeze the residency permits of UNHCR staff, the leading agency (despite its many shortcomings) providing services for, and protecting the interests of, Syrian refugees. While UNHCR maintains that there are no safe zones in Syria as of yet, Lebanon’s General Security has begun facilitating the return of hundreds of refugees from Arsal and nearby towns. This process has been monitored by UNHCR to ensure that the returns are voluntary. Hezbollah has also established centers to organize the return of Syrians to their homes in collaboration with the Syrian regime.

      Syrian regime obstructing refugees’ free return

      As the situation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon becomes more and more unbearable, conditions for them back home remain troubling. Since 2012, the Syrian regime has been taking deliberate measures that would effectively make the situation for returning Syrians extremely difficult and dangerous.


      Syrian males aged 18 to 42 must serve in the Syrian Armed Forces. While exemptions were allowed in the past, a decree issued in 2017 bans exemptions from military service. Refusing to serve in the Syrian army results in imprisonment or an $8,000 fine, which most Syrians are unable to pay, thus risking having their assets seized by the regime.

      Property as a weapon of war

      Law No. 66 (2012) allowed for the creation of development zones in specified areas across the country. Under the pretense of redeveloping areas currently hosting informal settlements or unauthorized housing, the law is actually being used to expropriate land from residents in areas identified in the decree, which are mostly former opposition strongholds such as Daraya and Ghouta.

      Law No. 10 (2018), passed in April, speeds up the above process. This law stipulates the designation of development or reconstruction zones, requiring local authorities to request a list of property owners from public real estate authorities. Those whose have property within these zones but are not registered on the list are notified by local authorities and must present proof of property within 30 days. If they are successful in providing proof, they get shares of the redevelopment project; otherwise, ownership reverts to the local authority in the province, town, or city where the property is located. Human Rights Watch has published a detailed Q&A that explains the law and its implications.

      These laws, coupled with systematic destruction of land registries by local authorities, fully equip the regime to dispossess hundreds of thousands of Syrian families. Reports indicate that the regime has already begun reconstruction in areas south of Damascus.

      Statements by Syrian officials

      Syrian officials have made several public statements that reveal their hostility toward refugees. On August 20, 2017, at the opening ceremony of a conference held by Syria’s foreign ministry, President Bashar al-Assad gave a speech in which he said: “It’s true that we lost the best of our young men as well as our infrastructure, but in return we gained a healthier, more homogeneous society.” On another occasion, Assad stated his belief that some refugees are terrorists.

      In September 2017, a video of Issam Zahreddine, a commander in the Syrian Armed Forces, went viral. In the video, Zahreddine threatens refugees against returning, saying: “To everyone who fled Syria to other countries, please do not return. If the government forgives you, we will not. I advise you not to come back.” Zahreddine later clarified that his remarks were meant for rebels and ISIS followers, but that clarification should be taken with a grain of salt given his bloody track record in the war up until his death in October 2017. Along similar lines, leaked information from a meeting of top-ranking army officers just last month reported the following statement by the head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence administration, General Jamil Al-Hassan: “A Syria with 10 million trustworthy people obedient to the leadership is better than a Syria with 30 million vandals.”

      Unknown fate

      Considering the unwelcoming policies in Lebanon and the treacherous conditions in Syria, what is the fate of Syrian refugees, specifically those who oppose the Assad regime? Until now, the return championed by Lebanese politicians implies return to a fascist regime that has caused the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War and unapologetically committed countless war crimes. While Lebanese politicians continue to focus on repatriation, they are failing to acknowledge the major barriers preventing Syrians from returning home: the Assad regime and ongoing mass violence.

      We cannot speak of safe, dignified, and sustainable returns without demanding justice and accountability. Regime change and trials for those who committed war crimes over the span of the last seven years are a long way off, and all evidence currently points toward the Assad regime retaining power. Any strategy must therefore prioritize the safety of Syrians who are likely to be detained, tortured, and killed for their political views upon return, or simply denied entry to Syria altogether. Lebanese policy makers must take into account that Syrians residing in Lebanon are not a homogenous entity, and some may never be able to return to their homes. Those Syrians should not be forced to choose between a brutal regime that will persecute them and a country that strips away their rights and dignity. It is time for Lebanon to adopt clear policies on asylum, resettlement, and return that ensure the right of all Syrians to lead a safe and dignified life.

    • Le retour des réfugiés en Syrie commence à préoccuper la communauté internationale

      Lors d’une conférence sur la Syrie à Bruxelles, le retour des réfugiés syriens dans leur pays a été évoqué. Démarrée en 2011, la guerre en Syrie touche à sa fin

      La situation en Syrie est loin d’être stabilisée. Les besoins de financement, de nourriture de matériel sont même en constante augmentation. Selon un haut fonctionnaire de l’ONU, un éventuel assaut contre la dernière enclave rebelle pourrait entraîner une « catastrophe humanitaire ». Pourtant, alors que 12 millions de Syriens, soit près de la moitié de la population syrienne avant la guerre, a fui le pays ou a été déplacée à l’intérieur, la question du retour, étape indispensable à la reconstruction, commence à se poser.

      C’est le principal message ressorti de la conférence « Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region » , qui vient de se tenir à Bruxelles. Les diplomates européens ont mis l’accent sur les difficultés de l’Europe à isoler le Président Bashar al-Assad, vainqueur de la guerre, soutenu par la Russie et l’Iran, pendant que les États-Unis retirent leurs troupes.

      L’UE a rappelé qu’un soutien à la reconstruction à long terme dépendrait du processus de paix de l’ONU pour mettre fin à une guerre responsable de la mort de centaines de milliers de personnes.

      Les Européens sont toutefois divisés sur la question de la reconstruction du pays, dans la mesure où le processus de paix de l’ONU est bloqué, que l’intervention militaire russe de 2015 s’avère décisive et que les pays arabes voisins envisagent de rétablir des liens diplomatiques.

      « Les États-Unis se retirent et les Russes n’ont pas l’argent. Voilà le contexte », a expliqué un haut fonctionnaire de l’UE, cité par Reuters. L’Allemagne, la France et les Pays-Bas défendent ouvertement l’idée de libérer les fonds de reconstruction uniquement quand le pays aura démarré sa transition politique et que Bashar-al-Assad ne sera plus au pouvoir. Aucun représentant officiel de la Syrie n’a été invité à la conférence. L’Italie, l’Autriche et la Hongrie, grands détracteurs de la politique migratoire européenne, plaident en revanche pour une négociation avec les autorités syriennes pour que les millions de réfugiés puissent rentrer chez eux.

      Mogherini craint le « ni guerre ni paix »

      La cheffe de la diplomatie européenne, Federica Mogherini, a déclaré qu’il y avait un risque que le pays se retrouve coincé dans une situation de « ni guerre ni paix ». Le Haut Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés, Filippo Grandi, a déclaré qu’il était prévisible que 2019 soit la première année depuis le début de la guerre « où il y aura plus de Syriens (réfugiés et déplacés internes) qui rentreront chez eux que de nouveaux déplacés. S’étant rendu en Syrie la semaine dernière, le Haut Commissaire a déclaré avoir été « marqué et touché » par la résilience du peuple syrien.

      « C’est dans un contexte de grandes destructions, avec des zones encore dangereuses et un manque de produits de première nécessité (nourriture, médicaments, eau) et d’emplois que de nombreux Syriens rentrent chez eux. Les agences humanitaires font ce qu’elles peuvent, mais un très grand nombre de déplacés internes et quelques réfugiés prennent la décision difficile de rentrer chez eux, et les besoins en produits de première nécessité ne font qu’augmenter », a-t-il expliqué, ajoutant que la plupart des réfugiés voyaient leur avenir dans leur pays natal et que « nous savons que 56 000 Syriens sont rentrés chez eux via des mouvements organisés l’année dernière, mais ce chiffre est certainement plus élevé ».

      Engagements financiers

      « Je suis heureux de vous annoncer que nous collaborons notamment avec le gouvernement syrien. Et j’aimerais particulièrement remercier la Fédération de Russie pour sa coopération face aux problèmes que le retour des réfugiés syriens implique pour eux », a ajouté Filippo Grandi. Dans le cadre de l’appel de l’ONU, 3,3 milliards de dollars seraient nécessaires pour venir en aide aux déplacés internes et 5,5 milliards de dollars pour les réfugiés et les communautés d’accueil dans les pays voisins.

      Le Secrétaire général adjoint aux affaires humanitaires, Marc Lowcock, a déclaré à la presse que les engagements financiers s’élevaient « au moins à 6,5 milliards de dollars » et peut-être même à près de 7 milliards de dollars. « C’est un très bon résultat, et si nous y parvenons vraiment en fin de compte, nous serons très heureux », a-t-il déclaré. Federica Mogherini a déclaré que l’UE contribuerait à hauteur de 560 millions d’euros pour venir en aide au peuple syrien durant l’année 2019 et que le même montant serait libéré les années suivantes.

      Filippo Grandi a également exprimé son inquiétude quant à la situation en déclin de la ville d’Idlib, près de la frontière turque. Près de 90 personnes y ont été tuées par des obus et des frappes aériennes, et la moitié d’entre elles étaient des enfants.

      « La pire des catastrophes humanitaires »

      « Permettez-moi de répéter ce que nous avons déjà dit à maintes reprises. Une attaque militaire d’envergure sur la ville d’Idlib occasionnerait la pire catastrophe humanitaire du 21ème siècle. Ce serait tout simplement inacceptable », a déclaré Filippo Grandi.

      Avec l’aide d’avions russes, l’armée syrienne a attaqué des villes au mains des forces rebelles dans la région d’Idlib, dernier bastion rebelle du pays. Ce bombardement a été le plus important depuis des mois. Les forces rebelles qui se sont battues depuis 8 ans pour faire tomber le Président al-Assad sont désormais confinées dans une enclave du nord est du pays, près de la frontière turque. Près de 4 millions de Syriens y vivent aujourd’hui, dont des centaines de milliers d’opposants au régime qui ont fui d’autres régions du pays.

      La Turquie, qui a commencé à patrouiller dans la zone tampon vendredi, a condamné ce qu’elle a qualifié de provocations croissantes pour mettre fin à la trêve et a averti qu’une offensive des forces russes et syriennes causerait une crise humanitaire majeure. De nombreux résidents sont exaspérés de l’incapacité des forces turques à répondre aux bombardements. L’armée syrienne a appelé au retrait des forces turques.

      L’enclave est protégée par une zone de « désescalade », un accord négocié l’an dernier par les pays qui soutiennent Bashar al-Assad, la Russie, l’Iran ainsi que la Turquie, qui avait auparavant soutenu les forces rebelles et envoyé des troupes pour surveiller la trêve. Le ministre turc des Affaires étrangères, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, a déclaré que 320 000 Syriens avaient pu rentrer chez eux grâce aux « opérations anti-terrorisme » menées par la Turquie et la Syrie.

    • Assad asks Syrian refugees to come home — then locks them up and interrogates them

      Guarantees offered by the government as part of a ’reconciliation’ process are often hollow, with returnees harassed or extorted.

      Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been arrested after returning home as the war they fled winds down — then interrogated, forced to inform on close family members and in some cases tortured, say returnees and human rights monitors.

      Many more who weathered the conflict in rebel-held territory now retaken by government forces are meeting a similar fate as President Bashar al-Assad’s regime deepens its longtime dependence on informers and surveillance.

      For Syrian refugees, going home usually requires permission from the government and a willingness to provide a full accounting of any involvement they had with the political opposition. But in many cases the guarantees offered by the government as part of this “reconciliation” process turn out to be hollow, with returnees subjected to harassment or extortion by security agencies or detention and torture to extract information about the refugees’ activities while they were away, according to the returnees and monitoring groups.

      Almost 2,000 people have been detained after returning to Syria during the past two years, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, while hundreds more in areas once controlled by the rebels have also been arrested.

      “If I knew then what I know now, I would never have gone back,” said a young man who returned to a government-controlled area outside Damascus. He said he has been harassed for months by members of security forces who repeatedly turn up at his home and stop him at checkpoints to search his phone.

      “People are still being taken by the secret police, and communities are living between suspicion and fear,” he said. “When they come to your door, you cannot say no. You just have to go with them.”

      Returnees interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity or on the understanding that their family names would be withheld, because of security threats.

      Since the war erupted in 2011, more than 5 million people have fled Syria and 6 million others have been displaced to another part of the country, according to the United Nations – together representing slightly more than half the Syrian population.

      In the past two years, as Assad’s forces have largely routed the rebels and recaptured much of the country, refugees have begun to trickle back. The United Nations says that at least 164,000 refugees have returned to the country since 2016. But citing a lack of access, the United Nations has not been able to document whether they have come back to government- or opposition-held areas.

      Assad has called for more homecomings, encouraging returnees in a televised address in February to “carry out their national duties.” He said forgiveness would be afforded to returnees “when they are honest.”

      According to our data, you are the exception if nothing happens to you

      A recent survey of Syrians who returned to government-held areas found that about 75 percent had been harassed at checkpoints, in government registry offices or in the street, conscripted into the military despite promises they would be exempted, or arrested.

      “According to our data, you are the exception if nothing happens to you,” said Nader Othman, a trustee with the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity, which said it had interviewed 350 returnees across Syria. “One of our most important takeaways is that most of those people who came back had thought that they were cleared by the regime. They thought their lack of opposition would protect them.”

      The Syrian government did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the treatment of returnees and other Syrians now back under government control.

      Outside Syria, many refugees say they were already apprehensive about going home, with fears over a lack of personal security only growing with reports that the government is reneging on its guarantees. Aid groups say there are few signs that a large-scale return will begin anytime soon.

      And in conversations with UN representatives, senior Syrian officials have made it clear that not all returnees are equally welcome. According to two European officials who recounted the conversations, individuals with links to opposition groups, media activism or humanitarian work will be least well received.

      But pressure on the refugees to return is rising across the Middle East, with Syria’s neighbours tightening restrictions on them in part to get them to leave.


      Hassan, 30, left his home in the western province of Homs in 2013. Before returning at the end of last year, he secured what he believed were guarantees for his safety after paying a large bribe to a high-ranking security official.

      But officers from the state security directorate met him at the airport and took him for interrogation. “They knew everything – what I’d done abroad, which cafes I’d sat in, even the time I had sat with opposition supporters during football matches,” he recalled.

      A week later, he was arrested during a visit to a government registry office and taken to a nearby police station. In a dingy room, officers took turns beating and questioning him, he said, accusing him of ferrying ammunition for an armed opposition group inside Syria in 2014.

      “I kept telling them that they knew I wasn’t in the country then,” he said. “All they did was ask me for money and tell me that it was the way to my freedom.”

      At one point, he said, the guards dragged in a young woman he had never met. “They beat her with a water pipe until she screamed, (then) told me they would do the same if I didn’t cooperate,” Hassan said.

      He said he was released at the end of January after relatives paid another bribe, this time $7,000.

      Syrians returning from abroad, like Hassan, often have to gain security approval just to re-enter the country, in some cases signing loyalty pledges and providing extensive accounts of any political activities, according to documents listing questions to be asked and statements to be signed.

    • Weighed down by economic woes, Syrian refugees head home from Jordan

      Rahaf* and Qassem lay out their plans to return to Syria as their five-year-old daughter plays with her toys in their small apartment in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

      It is early October, six years after they fled their home in Damascus, and the couple have decided it’s time to give up trying to make a life for themselves in Jordan.

      Last year, 51-year-old Qassem lost his job at a cleaning supplies factory when the facility shut down, and Rahaf’s home business as a beautician is slow.

      For months, the couple have resorted to borrowing money from friends to cover their 200 Jordanian dinar ($282) monthly rent. They are three months overdue. “There’s nobody else for us to borrow money from,” explains Rahaf.

      Weeks later, Qassem crossed the border and headed back to their old neighbourhood, joining an increasing tide of Syrian refugees who are going home, despite the dangers and a multitude of unknowns.

      According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, 34,000 registered Syrian refugees have returned from Jordan since October 2018, when a key border crossing was reopened after years of closure. It’s a fraction of the 650,000 registered Syrian refugees remaining in Jordan, but a dramatic jump from previous years, when annual returns hovered at around 7,000.

      Syrian refugees from the other main host countries – Turkey and Lebanon – are making the trip too. UNHCR has monitored more than 209,000 voluntary refugee returns to Syria since 2016, but the actual figure is likely to be significantly higher.

      Some Syrian refugees face political pressure to return and anti-refugee rhetoric, but that hasn’t taken hold in Jordan.

      Here, many refugees say they are simply fed up with years spent in a dead-end job market with a bleak economic future. The uptick appears to be driven more by the fact that Syrians who wish to go home can now – for the first time in three years – board a bus or a shared taxi from the border, which is about an hour and a half’s drive north of Amman.

      People like Rahaf and Qassem are pinning their hopes on picking up what is left of the lives they led before the war. Their Damascus house, which was damaged in the conflict, is near Qassem’s old shop, where he used to sell basic groceries and cleaning supplies.

      Qassem is staying with relatives for now. But the family had a plan: if and when he gave the green light, Rahaf and their children would join him back in Damascus.

      While she waited for his signal, Rahaf sold off what little furniture and other possessions they acquired in Jordan. “Honestly, we’ve gotten tired of this life, and we’ve lost hope,” she said.
      Money problems

      Before he lost his job, Qassem endured years of verbal abuse in the workplace, and few clients made the trip to Rahaf’s home.

      When she tried to set up a salon elsewhere, their refugee status created bureaucratic hurdles the couple couldn’t overcome. “I did go ask about paying rent for one shop, and they immediately told me no,” Qassem said. “[The owners] wanted a Jordanian renter.”

      Their story echoes those of many other refugees who say they have found peace but little opportunity in Jordan.

      Syrian refugees need a permit to work in Jordan – over 153,000 have been issued so far – but they are limited to working in a few industries in designated economic zones. Many others end up in low-paying jobs, and have long faced harsh economic conditions in Jordan.

      Thousands of urban refugees earn a meagre living either on farms or construction sites, or find informal work as day labourers.

      Abu Omran, who returned to Syria three months ago, fled Damascus with his family in 2013, and for a while was able to find occasional car mechanic jobs in Amman. Work eventually dried up, and he struggled to find ways to make money that did not require hard manual labour.

      “He spent the past three years just sitting at home, with no job,” recalled Abu Omran’s wife, Umm Omran.

      Speaking to The New Humanitarian in her Amman living room several months after her husband’s departure, she was soon joined for coffee and cigarettes by her youngest son, 19-year-old Badr. Newly married, he wore a ring on one finger.

      Times were so hard for the family that Abu Omran left Jordan before he had a chance to attend the wedding, and Badr has also been contemplating a return to Syria – the country he left as a young teenager.

      Badr works in a factory near Amman that produces cleaning products, but the pay is low. And although his older brother brings in a small salary from a pastry shop, it’s getting harder and harder for the family to pull together their rent each month.

      “I’m not returning because I think the situation in Syria is good. But you don’t enter into a difficult situation unless the one you’re currently in is even worse.”

      Entering a void

      While return may seem the best option for some, there are still more unknowns than knowns across the border in Syria.

      President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces control most of the country, but there are still airstrikes in the rebel-held northwest, and the recent Turkish invasion of the northeast has raised new questions about the country’s future.

      “I’m not returning because I think the situation in Syria is good,” said Farah, a mother of three who spoke to TNH in September – about a month before she packed up her things to leave. “But you don’t enter into a difficult situation unless the one you’re currently in is even worse.”

      In 2012, Farah and her husband left their home in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus for Jordan, where she gave birth to her three children.

      Her husband suffers from kidney stones, and the manual labour he has managed to pick up is just enough for them to pay for the rent of a shared house – crammed in with two other refugee families.

      The vast majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan – including Farah and Abu Omran’s families – live in urban areas like Amman, rather than in the country’s three refugee camps. They are still eligible for aid, but Farah had decided by October that she was “no longer able to bear” the poverty in Amman, even though UN food vouchers had covered some of her expenses.

      She took her three young children and crossed the border into Syria to stay with her mother, who lives in a southeastern suburb of Damascus. TNH has not been able to contact her since.

      Farah’s husband stayed behind in Jordan, fearing arrest or forced military conscription by Syrian government authorities.

      This has happened to other people who have gone back to Syria from Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, or other host countries. Despite promises to the contrary from the government, hundreds – and possibly thousands – of returnees have reportedly been detained.

      “There are issues with what information is made available to refugees… about what is going to happen to them on the other side, in Syria.”

      Lebanese authorities have also forcibly deported thousands of Syrian refugees, and Human Rights Watch says at least three of them were detained by Syrian authorities when they got back. It isn’t clear if any Syrians have faced the same fate returning from Jordan.

      Sara Kayyali, a researcher for Human Rights Watch based in Jordan, told TNH she has yet to verify reports of disappearance, conscription, and detainment of returnees from Jordan.

      “There are issues with what information is made available to refugees… about what is going to happen to them on the other side, in Syria,” said Kayyali. “Partially because people inside are too scared to talk about the conditions in government-held areas, and partially because the restrictions applied and the behaviour of the Syrian security forces is so arbitrary that it’s difficult to predict.”

      Kayyali pointed to the 30 Jordanian citizens detained in Syria since the border opened a year ago – Amman said they entered for tourism and were arrested without reason – as a sign of what could be to come for Syrians.

      “[If those threats] apply to Jordanians, then they’re most certainly going to be applied to Syrians, potentially on an even larger scale,” said Kayyali.

      There are other obstacles to return, or challenges for people who manage to get back, including destroyed homes and lost jobs. Healthcare and water provision is scattershot in certain parts of the country, while violence and war is ongoing in others.

      Francesco Bert, a UNHCR spokesperson in Jordan, said the agency “does not facilitate returns, but offers support to refugees if they voluntarily decide to go home”.

      Asked whether it is safe for refugees to go back to Syria, Bert said the agency “considers refugees’ decisions as the main guideposts”, but gives refugees considering or planning to return “information that might inform their decision-making”, to help ensure it is truly voluntary.
      The waiting game

      Despite the obstacles, more and more people are making the trip. But families often can’t travel back together.

      For Rahaf, that meant packing her things and waiting, before finally joining her husband last weekend.

      For Umm Omran, however, that means wondering if and when she will ever see her husband again.

      The family had hoped that Abu Omran could find a job repairing cars again in Damascus, and if that didn’t work out at least he could live rent-free with his sister’s family.

      But plans for his wife and sons to join him someday, once he had found his footing, now look increasingly unlikely.

      “He hasn’t said yet if he regrets going back home,” said Umm Omran, who communicates regularly via WhatsApp with her husband and other family members who never left Syria. They live in government-controlled Damascus and don’t give away much in their chats for fear of retaliation by security forces, who they worry could be monitoring their communications.

      What Umm Omran has managed to piece together isn’t promising.

      Her husband has yet to find a job in Damascus, and is beginning to feel like a burden at his sister’s home. Their own house, where he and Umm Omran raised their sons, is bombed-out and needs extensive repairs before anyone can move back in.

      For the time-being, Umm Omran has ruled out her own potential return to Syria, fearing her two sons would insist on joining her and end up being conscripted into the armed forces. So, for now, the family remains split in two.

      “When I ask him how things are going, he just says, ‘Thank God’. He says little else,” said Umm Omran, scrolling through chats on her mobile phone. “I think he’s upset about leaving us.”
      #Amman #Jordanie

  • Le Liban dans l’attente des suites des sommets de Riyad - Scarlett HADDAD - L’Orient-Le Jour

    Depuis les trois sommets de Riyad, l’Arabie saoudite a repris l’initiative dans la région et veut désormais imposer son agenda aux pays arabo-islamiques. C’est ainsi, selon les milieux de la délégation libanaise, que le sommet arabo-islamo-américain a été écourté d’une façon cavalière et sans concertation ni même annonce préalables, pour éviter les discours de certains dirigeants arabes qui pourraient être plus réservés que le ton voulu par les dirigeants saoudiens à l’égard de l’Iran et de ses alliés dans la région. De même, le communiqué final a été préparé par les Saoudiens qui n’ont même pas averti les participants arabes de son contenu, considérant que les autres pays doivent savoir qu’il comportera une critique ouverte du rôle de l’Iran dans la région, sachant que Riyad ne cache pas sa volonté de réduire l’influence iranienne et que le président américain Donald Trump est d’accord avec cette volonté saoudienne.

    • Nasrallah s’en prend violemment à l’Arabie saoudite et à Trump
      J.A.R. | 25/05/2017

      (...) Hassan Nasrallah a également rendu hommage aux prises de positions de Michel Aoun, du Premier ministre Saad Hariri et du ministre des Affaires étrangères, Gebran Bassil « qui a pris lors de ce sommet une position franche, courageuse et responsable ».

      Lors du Conseil des ministres qui s’est tenu la veille, Michel Aoun et Saad Hariri ont tenté de rassurer les ministres représentant le Hezbollah vis-à-vis de la déclaration finale du sommet de Riyad, très critique envers l’Iran et ses alliés, en expliquant que la position officielle du Liban restait définie par le discours d’investiture du chef de l’Etat et de la déclaration ministérielle du gouvernement.

      Les liens entre l’Arabie et Trump
      Pour le chef du Hezbollah, "la déclaration finale du sommet de Riyad est un document rédigé par les Etats-Unis et l’Arabie saoudite". "Elle n’a pas été présentée aux délégations présentes mais a été préparée après le départ de toutes les délégations des 55 pays invités", a-t-il ajouté, dénonçant un "scandale".

      L’occasion pour Hassan Nasrallah de s’en prendre à Donald Trump, "un président raciste qui a pris la décision d’interdire aux musulmans de fouler le sol américain", a-t-il rappelé. "Comment et pourquoi les dirigeants saoudiens prennent le parti du président américain ? Sur quelles bases ?", s’est-il interrogé.

      "L’Arabie saoudite cherche le soutien de Trump car elle veut se protéger et préserver son rôle dans la région", a poursuivi le leader du parti chiite, déclarant que "l’Occident tout entier estime désormais que le royaume wahabite est le foyer du takfirisme (jihadisme) qu’il propage à travers le monde".

      Hassan Nasrallah a ensuite balayé les accusations de Riyad disant que Téhéran est le principal soutien du terrorisme. "Qui a crée el-Qaëda ? Qui a inspiré les organisations takfiristes ?", a-t-il lancé, dénonçant le "terrorisme d’Etat" de Riyad au Yémen.(...)

  • Un gouvernement avant le 22 novembre - Scarlett HADDAD - L’Orient-Le Jour

    Même si les négociateurs restent discrets sur les détails de la formation du nouveau gouvernement, les responsables se déclarent optimistes. Apparemment, les principales tractations sont effectuées par le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Gebran Bassil, et le chef du cabinet du Premier ministre, Nader Hariri. Chacun des deux hommes en réfère directement au chef de l’État et au président du Conseil, ainsi qu’au conseiller du président de la Chambre, le ministre des Finances Ali Hassan Khalil, et au Hezbollah en la personne du conseiller politique du secrétaire général, Hussein Khalil. Les discussions sont pratiquement ininterrompues et selon les milieux qui suivent ce dossier, il n’y aurait pas d’obstacles majeurs, même si certaines exigences entravent la naissance rapide du gouvernement et exigent des discussions plus poussées. Ce qui est désormais certain, c’est que le gouvernement sera formé de 30 ministres, 24 avec des portefeuilles et six ministres d’État.

    Jusqu’à présent, il semble clair que la part du CPL au sein du gouvernement sera la suivante : les ministres actuels Gebran Bassil et Élias Bou Saab ainsi que le coordinateur du parti, Pierre Raffoul. M. Bassil resterait probablement aux Affaires étrangères ou alors un ministère d’État chargé de la Coordination entre la présidence et le gouvernement pourrait être créé et lui être confié. Dans ce cas, Élias Bou Saab prendrait en charge la diplomatie. Rien n’est encore tranché à ce sujet.

  • Les opposants CPL, pour l’alternance et la participation - Scarlett HADDAD - L’Orient-Le Jour

    Les élections municipales du mois de mai ont montré un affaiblissement des partis politiques, mais c’est surtout aux remous au sein du CPL que les médias se sont intéressés. Selon le Courant patriotique libre, cette soudaine passion médiatique pour tout ce qui se passe au sein de ce parti, et en particulier pour les voix dissidentes, ne peut pas être innocente. Elle vise, à travers la focalisation sur les problèmes internes, à atteindre le général Michel Aoun et le chef du parti, le ministre Gebran Bassil. Considérant ainsi qu’il s’agit d’une nouvelle étape dans la guerre systématique menée contre Aoun et le parti qu’il a fondé, Bassil a préféré faire preuve de fermeté à l’égard de ceux qui ont élevé la voix et qui ont dénoncé ce qu’ils ont appelé « une dérive totalitaire au sein du CPL ». Au cours du meeting à l’occasion du 7 août, il a même déclaré : « Il n’y a pas d’opposition au sein du CPL, ni des courants différents à l’intérieur du parti. »

  • Pétrole et gaz : les véritables enjeux de l’accord surprise - Scarlett HADDAD - L’Orient-Le Jour

    Brusquement, l’accord sur le dossier du pétrole a été conclu entre le président de la Chambre Nabih Berry et le ministre des Affaires étrangères et chef du CPL Gebran Bassil. Pour certains, il s’agit de l’une des concrétisations du fameux « miracle libanais ». Mais, pour d’autres, ce soudain accord après des années de divergences profondes serait dû aux pressions occidentales, et plus précisément américaines. Les partisans de cette thèse rapportent que depuis quelque temps déjà, l’administration US est intéressée par le dossier des ressources pétrolières et gazières dans la région. L’émissaire spécial américain chargé de ce dossier, Amos Hochstein, a effectué plusieurs visites au Liban dans ce but, sans réussir à convaincre les parties libanaises de s’entendre sur ce dossier.


    Cette divergence de fond semblait impossible à surmonter... jusqu’à ce que les Américains s’en mêlent sérieusement. Selon des sources occidentales, la raison qui aurait poussé Washington à presser les Libanais à s’entendre serait la suivante : les Israéliens auraient des problèmes techniques à exporter leur gaz vers l’Europe via Chypre. Ils auraient donc besoin d’utiliser la ligne maritime passant par la Turquie. Pour cela, ils seraient obligés de passer devant les côtes libanaises. Mais pour que cela soit possible, il faut un minimum de stabilité qui ne peut être assuré que si le Liban est dans le coup et exploite lui aussi ses ressources gazières et pétrolières. C’est d’autant plus important que le Hezbollah, par la voix de son secrétaire général, a annoncé à plusieurs reprises son intention de protéger les ressources énergétiques du Liban, en menaçant de bombarder les installations israéliennes si elles s’approchaient des eaux territoriales libanaises. Le fait que des voix libanaises se soient insurgées contre ces menaces, critiquant le fait que le Hezbollah se soit arrogé la fonction de protecteur des ressources libanaises, ne suffit pas à calmer les inquiétudes des grandes sociétés de prospection et d’exploitation des ressources énergétiques, qui ont besoin de stabilité réelle pour accomplir leur travail et investir dans ce secteur.

    De quoi donner raison aux #complotistes qui pensent que la guerre de Syrie avait moins à voir avec la nature d’une dictature fossile qu’avec la gestion des énergies fossile.

  • Lebanese politics, as you always liked it!
    The Month that Doesn’t Count | Moulahazat

    As Aoun and Geagea were using their new alliance to blame the Muslim ally of their new Christian ally for not supporting their new Christian candidate (sorry for that complicated sentence), Sami Gemayel was micro-maneuvering in the last ten days in April by finally naming five presidential candidates – The Kataeb have long been crticized for standing in the way of all of the mainstream candidacies without providing an alternative. Curiously, and among the five candidates, you’ll find the name of Michel Aoun’s son-in-law. Yeah, not Gebran Bassil, the son-in-law currently in charge of the FPM, but the other one, Chamel Roukoz, whose popularity is a big threat on the FPM’s new number 1. By embracing the candidacy of the son-in-law of one of the two most popular candidates, that happens not to be the son-in-law leading the party, and also happens to be the son-in-law who is a retired general – apparently 18 years of generals in Baabda aren’t enough, the Kataeb are trying to turn the Aounists on one another.

  • Le Conseil des scandales - Fady NOUN - L’Orient-Le Jour
    3 scandales majeurs évoqués pendant ce conseil des ministres libanais et aucune décision sur :
    – le scandale des déchets
    – le scandale du blé cancérigène (polémique sur la réalité de ce fait ; sur l’autorité en charge d’en décider ; sur l’utilisation de cette polémique pour masquer celle des déchets, où le ministre de la Santé chercherait à arranger certains intérêts économiques de personnalités de de son bloc politique)
    – un peu de confessionnalisme : est ce que les Grecs catholiques ont le droit d’avoir leur propre service de sécurité ?

    Le Conseil des ministres a également été marqué par un vif échange entre Gebran Bassil et Ali Hassan Khalil, sur fond de polémique au sujet de la Sécurité de l’État, un organisme présidé par un grec-catholique dont cette communauté demande en vain la réactivation depuis quelques mois. Aux ministres Michel Pharaon et Alain Hakim qui en demandaient l’examen, M. Salam a répondu qu’il compte d’abord expédier l’ordre du jour. Un flottement a alors marqué la séance, qui a failli être suspendue, avec les deux ministres menaçant de s’en retirer et un Tammam Salam excédé lançant : « Eh bien, faites, mais faites donc ! »
    « Pas d’accord, devait interjeter, venimeux, Gebran Bassil. Chaque fois qu’il s’agit d’une question qui concerne les chrétiens, les questions sont écartées ! » À Ali Hassan Khalil qui lui faisait remarquer qu’ « il réfléchit en dhimmi politique », M. Bassil devait rétorquer : « Nous en parlons, mais vous le pratiquez ! »

    #Liban #sens_des_priorités

    • Deux éminents représentants du 8 Mars (Amal et aouniste) s’emplâtrant sur le concept de dhimmitude (trademark : Bachir Gemayel repris par Bat Ye’or), c’est franchement pitoyable.

  • La Ligue arabe affiche sa « solidarité totale » avec Riyad face aux « actes hostiles » de Téhéran - L’Orient-Le Jour

    Le communiqué final a été adopté à l’unanimité des membres de la Ligue arabe à l’exception du Liban, dont le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Gebran Bassil, a déclaré, dans son allocution, que le Liban « prend ses distances avec cette crise afin de préserver sa stabilité nationale ».

  • Election présidentielle. Il faut parler à la Russie plutôt qu’à l’Iran

    Téhéran aurait lancé deux signaux permettant de conclure à une élection présidentielle proche : les propos d’Alaeddine Boroujerdi, chef de la Commission des Affaires étrangères au Parlement iranien, affirmant qu’il espère que sa prochaine visite sera au palais présidentiel, et ceux d’Ali Akbar Velayati, conseiller du guide Ali Khamenei, adressés au ministre Gebran Bassil, souhaitant une élection présidentielle proche.
    Il semble que l’intervention russe bénéficie d’une couverture internationale et régionale globale. Vladimir Poutine ne commettrait pas l’erreur d’une aventure militaire de cette taille en Syrie et ne souhaiterait pas être responsable du déclenchement d’une guerre régionale ou mondiale. Les proches du Hezbollah répètent que le compromis en Syrie se fera probablement au printemps prochain, ce qui veut dire que l’automne et l’hiver syriens seraient témoins d’une immense pression militaire russo-iranienne en vue d’un règlement.
    Des sources proches du 8 mars estiment qu’il n’y aura pas de solution politique en Syrie avant une victoire sur le terrain et l’élimination des groupes terroristes. Elles soulignent que les changements en Syrie sont dans l’intérêt de leur axe, mais ils n’auront pas un aboutissement positif avant l’ouverture de canaux de communication entre l’Iran et l’Arabie pour trouver une solution au Yémen.
    De leur côté, les sources du 14 mars pensent que le Hezbollah a la conviction que l’intervention militaire russe ne mènera pas à une solution rapide de la crise syrienne, contrairement à la campagne qu’il mène et qui s’inscrit visiblement dans le cadre d’une guerre psychologique, surtout que, un mois après son intervention militaire, la Russie n’a toujours pas réussi à changer les faits sur le terrain. Au contraire, Moscou appelle à une solution politique pour le sortir de cette impasse.
    L’échec de la Russie en Syrie la pousserait à chercher un compromis au Liban sous le nom de « l’accord de Moscou ». Si la Russie et l’Iran possèdent une même stratégie en principe, Téhéran n’aurait pas l’intention de laisser la carte du Liban entre les mains des Russes, alors que ceux-ci ont pris possession de la carte syrienne.

  • Apparemment, les politiciens libanais pleurent la mort d’un homme qui a dirigé le Liban pendant 40 ans :

    Suite au décès de l’ancien ministre saoudien des Affaires étrangères Saoud al-Fayçal, survenu jeudi, l’ambassadeur d’Arabie saoudite, Ali Aouad Assiri, recevra les condoléances au siège de l’ambassade les dimanche 12, lundi 13 et mardi 14 juillet. Par ailleurs, l’ambassade a annoncé dans un communiqué que l’iftar prévu pour lundi est annulé en raison des circonstances.

    Les réactions des personnalités libanaises au décès de Saoud al-Fayçal se sont multipliées hier. Parmi elles, celle du chef du bloc du Futur, Fouad Siniora, qui a qualifié le disparu de « prince de la diplomatie arabe et des positions solides ». « Il était un des symboles de l’ouverture et de la modération, s’opposant fermement à l’extrémisme, la violence et au terrorisme », a-t-il poursuivi.

    Pour Samir Geagea, chef des Forces libanaises, le Liban « a perdu un frère qui lui était cher ». « Comment oublier ses efforts pour mettre fin à la guerre civile libanaise ? » a-t-il dit.

    L’ancien président de la République Amine Gemayel a envoyé un message de condoléances au roi Salmane ben Abdel Aziz. Il a considéré que « la disparition, en des circonstances si difficiles, du prince qui a dirigé la diplomatie saoudienne pendant si longtemps est une perte pour les deux pays ».

    Le ministre des Affaires étrangères Gebran Bassil, dans un message au roi d’Arabie saoudite, a affirmé que « le monde a perdu, avec le décès du prince Saoud al-Fayçal, une grande personnalité, une valeur diplomatique exceptionnelle, qui a laissé son empreinte indélébile sur l’histoire contemporaine des mondes arabe et islamique, voire du monde entier ».

    Samy Gemayel, nouveau président du parti Kataëb, a contacté l’ambassadeur d’Arabie saoudite pour lui présenter ses condoléances. Il a estimé que le prince disparu « occupe une place essentielle dans la mémoire du Liban et des Libanais, notamment par les initiatives de paix qu’il a lancées ».

    Les hommes religieux ont également adressé à l’Arabie saoudite des messages de condoléances pour le décès de Saoud al-Fayçal. Le mufti de la République Abdellatif Deriane a regretté un homme « qui aimait le Liban et les Libanais, apportant toujours son concours pour régler leurs crises ». Il a rendu hommage « à ses prises de position courageuses » et estimé qu’« il s’était consacré au service des causes arabes ».

    Pour le cheikh Akl druze Naïm Hassan, Saoud al-Fayçal « était un grand ami de la communauté druze, soucieux de ses intérêts, l’ayant soutenue à maintes étapes de son histoire ».

  • Il y a une amusante colonne sans intitulé dans le tableau Wikipédia sur la composition du parlement libanais:–17_Lebanese_Parliament

    En voici le contenu intégral:

    – Daughter of Gebran Tueni, grandchild of Michel Murr
    – Son of Bachir Gemayel, nephew of Amine Gemayel
    – Son of Pierre Pharaon
    – Son of Rafik Hariri, Nephew of Bahia Hariri
    – Son of Saeb Salam
    – Son of Fawzi Hobeiche
    – Son of Mohammad Alameddine
    – Cousin of Omar Karami and Rachid Karami
    – Son of Maurice Fadel
    – Son of Georges Saadeh
    – Son of Tony Frangieh, grandson of Sleiman Frangieh
    – Son of Youssef Salim Karam
    – Nephew of Semaan Douaihy
    – Son of Fouad Ghosn
    – Wife of Samir Geagea, niece of Gebran Tawk
    – Son of Najib Khoury, cousin of Nazem Khoury
    – Father-in-law of Gebran Bassil, uncle of Alain Aoun
    – Daughter of Maurice Zouein, Granddaughter of Georges Zouein
    – Son of Amine Gemayel, nephew of Bachir Gemayel
    – Nephew of Albert Moukheiber
    – Father of Elias Murr, Grandfather of Nayla Tueni
    – Nephew of Michel Aoun
    – Nephew of Mahmoud Ammar
    – Son of Majid Arslan
    – Son of Pierre Helou
    – grandson of Habib Pacha Es-Saad
    – Son of Kamal Jumblatt
    – Brother-in-law of Ghassan Tueni, Uncle of Gebran Tueni
    – Son of Camille Chamoun
    – Sister of Rafik Hariri, aunt of Saad Hariri
    – Son of Adel Osseiran
    – Son of Youssef Zein, Brother of AbdelMajid Zein and AbdelKarim Zein
    – Son of Nazem el Kadiri
    – Son of Iskandar Ghanem
    – Brother of Ismail Succariyeh
    – Nephew of Morched Habchi

    (et encore, on doit pouvoir largement compléter cette colonne)

  • Western sanctions against Iran inflamed sectarian tensions

    Decades of Western pressure and sanctions on Iran have inflamed sectarian tensions across the region, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said.

    In a lecture Friday at Central University of Chile in Santiago, Bassil denounced isolationist policies imposed by powerful nations against their foes as dangerous, destructive and counterproductive.

    “The enormous pressures exerted on Iran, politically and economically, have evidently fueled the sectarian tensions in the Middle East, namely on the emerging Sunni-Shiite lines,” Bassil said according to remarks released by his media office.

    But he noted that the same policies “actually pushed Iran to take on a principled and firm political opposition to the West, and gave room for more radical positions on the nuclear dossier,” which were the opposite of what the United States and Europe had sought.

  • Diaspora Energy Conference: We are all “crazy” about #Lebanon

    Lebanese Foreign Minister #gebran_bassil speaks during a press conference following talks with his German counterpart at the foreign ministry in Berlin May 6, 2014. (Photo: AFP- John MacDougall) Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil speaks during a press conference following talks with his German counterpart at the foreign ministry in Berlin May 6, 2014. (Photo: AFP- John MacDougall)

    The state of Lebanon hosts “450,000 Palestinian refugees, 1.5 million Syrians, 350,000 naturalized non-Lebanese, while it abandons millions of its natives by denying them the right to acquire citizenship - the Lebanese identification paper” said Gebran Bassil, the Lebanese minister of foreign affairs and emigrants. (...)

    #Opinion #Articles #Change_and_Reform_Bloc #FPM #Future_Movement #Hussein_al-Hajj_Hassan #Lebanese_diaspora #Naamtallah_Abi_Nasr #Sin_al-Fil

  • Fin de la politique de la porte ouverte aux réfugiés syriens - Fady NOUN - L’Orient-Le Jour

    Par contre, les ministres ont réussi à s’entendre sur les grandes lignes d’un début de règlement du drame des réfugiés syriens, et d’abord sur la fin de « la politique de la porte ouverte » et la nécessité de contenir désormais l’afflux de réfugiés, chaque fois que cela est possible. Une cellule de crise présidée par le Premier ministre et comprenant en outre Gebran Bassil (AE), Rachid Derbas (Affaires sociales) et Nouhad Machnouk (Intérieur) a été formée pour superviser la mise en place de la nouvelle politique et en parler de façon unifiée à la communauté internationale.

    Il faut inciter les réfugiés qui le peuvent à regagner la Syrie, sinon leurs régions d’origine, du moins des camps de réfugiés qui seraient installés en territoire sûr syrien, ont ainsi décidé les ministres. Le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Gebran Bassil, a été chargé de réfléchir à cet aspect des choses en coordination avec le gouvernement syrien et divers pays, organisations et ONG concernés.

    #Liban #Syrie #réfugiés

  • #Hezbollah, #syria, and #Egypt on the verge of an understanding?

    A handout picture made available by the Egyptian presidency shows Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour (R) and Foreign Minister #Nabil_Fahmy (L) meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil (C), at the presidential palace in Cairo on March 10, 2014. (Photo: AFP/ Ho / Egyptian Presidency) A handout picture made available by the Egyptian presidency shows Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour (R) and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy (L) meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil (C), at the presidential palace in Cairo on March 10, 2014. (Photo: AFP/ Ho / Egyptian Presidency)

    A meeting in Beirut a few days ago between Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and Lebanese Industry Minister and Hezbollah MP (...)

    #Opinion #Articles #Hussein_al-Hajj #Iran #Muslim_Brotherhood #Saudi_Arabia #Sisi #SNC #US

  • Will the Saudis get Aoun into #Baabda?

    French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius (R) shares a laugh with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil (2ndL) prior to their meeting at the French ministry in Paris, on March 4, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Thomas Samson) French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius (R) shares a laugh with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil (2ndL) prior to their meeting at the French ministry in Paris, on March 4, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Thomas Samson)

    General #Michel_Aoun will not stand idly by while the deadline to elect a new president in #Lebanon approaches. It is his last chance to enter the presidential palace in Baabda again and he is willing to go great lengths to get there, even opening up to #Saudi_Arabia.

    Lea (...)

    #Articles #FPM #Free_Patriotic_Movement #Future_Movement #Hezbollah #Lebanon #Marada #Saad_Hariri

  • What did Bassil send the #Arab_League?

    Minister of Foreign Affairs #gebran_bassil during a press conference. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi) Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil during a press conference. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)

    Despite the air of optimism surrounding the drafting of the #ministerial_statement, no tangible progress has been made. On the contrary, the situation is heading towards more stumbling blocks after the paragraph on #Lebanon in the statement of the next Arab League summit was submitted by Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil. Did Bassil neglect to mention the word “resistance” or did he leave the previous text as it was? read (...)

    #Articles #Lebanon #Michel_Suleiman #Nabih_Berri #Tamam_Salam

  • Lebanon’s gas wealth: the time factor | Middle East Strategic Perspectives

    Although Lebanon did not develop a hydrocarbon policy and did not study export options in details, there has been several declarations by Lebanese officials, including caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, that Lebanon is primarily eyeing neighboring markets, among other possible options. But we are not the only ones eyeing these markets. Israel’s Delek Group and Texas-based Noble Energy are discussing a deal to sell Israeli gas to Jordan’s Arab Potash. Charles Davidson, CEO of Noble Energy, the operator of Israel’s Leviathan and Tamar gas fields, also expressed his preference to selling gas to neighboring countries such as Egypt and Jordan. Given that gas contracts are usually long-term contracts, Lebanon might find it harder to sell its gas to well-supplied neighboring countries. Having to look for farther markets also means having to invest more in infrastructure.


  • Vers un accord au sujet du contentieux maritime israëlo-libanais ?
    Lebanon : The Oil & Gas Week, November 11, 2013 | Middle East Strategic Perspectives

    The maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel was the subject of increased attention since the publication of an article in the Israeli business magazine Globes on 29/10 claiming that Israel rejected a US compromise, although the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused to comment on the subject. In an interesting development, a Lebanese official source talking to Lebanese daily Assafir on 31/10 denied the claim. The “Lebanese official source” is likely to be caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, who told Assafir on 02/11 that the news about Israel rejecting the US compromise is incorrect.

    The leak comes at a time the US initiative is said to have reached an advanced stage. The quick denial by a Lebanese minister is significant and indicates Lebanon seems to be satisfied with the US initiative and would like it to proceed. The leak also coincides with a resumption of tension between Lebanon and Israel on multiple fronts.

    Toutefois, les choses ne sont pas si simples et les différences de vue entre forces politiques locales - sans parler du gouvernement syrien - existent aussi :

    Baath Party MP and member of the Energy and Water Committee at the Parliament, Assem Qanso warned that once exploration licenses are awarded “caretaker PM Najib Mikati, MP Walid Joumblat and caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil and others” will amass billions of dollars. The pro-Syrian regime MP slammed the “sectarian” Petroleum Administration, established with “the sole purpose of sharing profits”. Qanso believes that the absence of a petroleum ministry facilitates the embezzlement of billions of dollars. The subtle messages that one can extract from Qanso’s declarations recently is that pro-Syrian regime factions expect to recover some of their lost political influence, and they prefer to hold up oil and gas exploration until a more favorable government is in place.