x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Palestinian refugees are neutral in Syrian war, says Abbas

Refugees 'not taking sides' in conflicts in Syria and Lebanon.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (right) reviews a guard of honour with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman (L) at the presidential palace of Baabda.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (right) reviews a guard of honour with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman (L) at the presidential palace of Baabda.

BEIRUT // Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that Palestinian refugees were not taking sides in the Syria war or involved in the spillover of the conflict in Lebanon.

The Palestinian Authority president was in Beirut yesterday for talks with the Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman, about the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Their ranks have swollen with the arrival of thousands of Palestinians from war-torn Syria.

"We are not a side in any conflict or struggle that is happening" in Lebanon or in Syria," Mr Abbas said at the start of a three-day visit. "We hope that thousands of refugees ... in Syria and Lebanon ... can be kept clear" of conflict and unrest, he added.

Mr Suleiman said that during their meeting, he and Mr Abbas had reaffirmed the "importance" of ensuring that the Palestinians stay out of the Syria war and Lebanon's complex internal politics.

Mr Abbas's visit comes a week after 18 troops were killed during a fierce battle pitting supporters of the radical Sunni imam, Sheikh Ahmad Al Assir, against the Lebanese army raged in the southern city of Sidon.

At the same time, clashes broke out between the army and Islamist fighters on the edges of Ain Al Helweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, which is located in Sidon.