Talks held between a Russian delegation and Lebanese officials in Beirut last week failed to achieve any progress on the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, Lebanese ministerial sources have said.
“The Russian initiative remains deadlocked even if Moscow insists on activating it from time to time … Russia also hopes for new developments to secure the return of refugees, even if such return happens on several stages,” the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday.
A Russian delegation, headed by Alexander Lavrentiev, President Vladimir Putin's special envoy for Syria, visited Beirut last week and held talks with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
The sources said that when in Beirut, Lavrentiev focused on inviting Lebanon to the Astana Summit as an observer and pushing Lebanon to play a role in Syria’s reconstruction in case of a political solution in the war-torn country.
The same sources said Beirut would attend the Astana Summit, however, without taking any positions that contradict the decisions reached at the Geneva Summit in 2012 and which assert that Syria's war would only be resolved politically through the inclusion of all Syrian parties in the process.
The sources said Russia believes that agreeing on a new constitution for Syria would encourage the return of refugees.
The Russian delegation expressed regret that reconstruction-linked obstacles were hindering the return of some displaced Syrians.
“Certain foreign parties had expressed willingness to finance the reconstruction of some villages and towns that can welcome back their residents. However, those same parties changed their position when the US imposed sanctions on Iran and the regime in Syria,” the sources said.
Last year, Russia launched an initiative to help repatriate the Syrian refugees to their homeland.
The UN has said that a total of 944,613 Syrian refugees are present in Lebanon.
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