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Rahi from Paris: We reject displaced people’s voluntary return principle

Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi held a press conference at his residence in the Bristol Hotel in Paris whereby he addressed Arab and foreign media.

In response to a question about the possibility of the Lebanese State communicating with the Syrian regime to solve the problem of displaced persons, Rahi said "this is the responsibility of the Lebanese State. We live in a political conflict because the country is divided between two teams, one supporting the Syrian regime and the other standing against it, which has led to paralysis in politics and economy."

"The Lebanese are living in poverty, in light of the large number of displaced persons," he said, pointing out that "this migration has created a sort of imbalance which, if it continues, would change the identity of Lebanon."

"Economically, we are living the repercussions of the war in Syria especially that the road to the Arab world has been cut off. We are paying a heavy economic price," The Patriarch added.

"The issue of the displaced is an international and regional concern, and solving it is a shared responsibility," he said.

"It is imperative to encourage the displaced to return to their country. We reject the principle of voluntary return, but international assistance is required for the reconstruction of their homes. Friends of Lebanon are asked for help because we are starting to feel as strangers in our own homeland."

On France's position, Rahi pointed out that "it is committed to the international resolution, namely the voluntary return of displaced. And this is what we reject."

"The land of Lebanon is not for sale," he maintained. "Our fear is that the longer the displaced reside [on our land] the bigger the chance for demanding their naturalization."

"Law No. 10 has two sides, one positive, as it encourages the declaration of ownership, while the other is negative, especially that the deadline given is short," Rahi argued.

He also regretted what he called "the absence of an international will for the return of displaced people, and that for political reasons."

Tackling the government formation process, Rahi noted that the next government's priority would be to implement reforms. "We demand a colorless government, a government of technocrats. But, as it appears, we should expect a government of fights over interests.

Source: National News Agency