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Cyprus pins hopes on new Lebanon aid package

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Thursday a 1-billion-euro (about 1.07 billion U.S. dollars) financial assistance package for Lebanon from 2024 to 2027.

“This continued EU support will strengthen basic services such as education, social protection, and health for the people in Lebanon. It will accompany urgent economic, financial, and banking reforms,” von der Leyen said in a statement by the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon.

Her remarks came during a joint press conference in Beirut with President of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides and Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

Christodoulides and von der Leyen arrived in Lebanon on Thursday to discuss with Lebanese officials the significant domestic and regional challenges faced by Lebanon, which is hosting a large number of Syrian refugees, and how best the EU could support the country and its people.

Von der Leyen said that support will also be provided to the Lebanese Armed Forces and other security forces, including equipment and training for border management and fighting smuggling.

For his part, Christodoulides said the new assistance package will help Lebanese authorities address challenges such as monitoring land borders and fighting against illegal immigration from and to Lebanon.

The Cypriot president said he is aware of the pressure of hosting a large number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, noting that the “situation is not acceptable for Lebanon, Cyprus, and the European Union.”

He said quick solutions must be found to address this issue.

He said, “We should work with our partners and the United Nations to guarantee a safe return for refugees to their homeland.”

Meanwhile, Mikati said the biggest part of his meeting with the two officials focused on the Syrian refugees issue, which is putting tremendous pressure on Lebanon and its population.

“Lebanon can no longer bear the repercussions of hosting Syrian refugees on its territories as they constitute around one-third of the Lebanese population,” he said.

Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita, with the government estimating around 2 million Syrian refugees.

Under current EU regulations, migrants from Syria are entitled to refugee protection.

Cyprus is grappling with an influx of Syrian migrants as over 30,000 people who have received refugee status in the country are entitled to accommodation and a monthly allowance.

Cyprus is working with other EU countries to convince the European Commission that at least two regions in Syria are not anymore in a state of war, which would enable the return of Syrian migrants.

Nearly all the Syrian refugees who arrived in Cyprus by sea departed from the coasts of Lebanon, less than 200 km southeast of Cyprus.

Earlier this month, Cyprus suspended the processing of asylum applications by Syrian migrants following mass arrivals by sea and the escalation of regional conflicts.

Famagusta Gazette