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Briefing by Mr. Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The meeting was called to order at 10.40 a.m.
Adoption of the agenda
The agenda was adopted.
Mr. Mekdad (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic ):
We must not forget the root causes of conflict in many parts of the world. Many conflicts have their roots in the prevailing economic and social conditions, as well as in the consequences of colonialism or foreign occupation, as is the case in the Middle East region and in many countries, especially developing countries.
Although the problem of refugees in the Middle East does not fall within the jurisdiction of the UNHCR, it does fall within the mandate of the United Nations and the United Nations system as a whole. Therefore, we must bear in mind the fact that millions of Palestinian refugees remain displaced, outside their homeland, after being expelled from their homeland by armed force in 1948. This has been a chronic humanitarian problem for the last 54 years.
More recently, displaced persons have been made refugees by Israel since 1967. These persons include half a million Syrian citizens. Contrary to logic and all legislation and relevant United Nations resolutions, including General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1948, these refugees continue to live without hope. In fact, they continue to face allegations and perverted logic that are not in accordance with international standards for dealing with the issue of refugees. For instance, Israel totally rejects the return of these refugees to the towns and villages of their homeland, under the pretext that they are not covered by the measures adopted by the Council and the United Nations in general to facilitate the return of all refugees to their homelands.
Some 1 million Palestinian refugees live in Jordan; approximately half a million are in Syria, and about the same number reside in Lebanon. Israel insists that these refugees have no right to return to their homeland, while it allows many others to return to States that are not their countries of origin and to places that are not their legitimate homes. What is important here is that these Palestinian refugees refuse to become residents or naturalized citizens of the countries where they live; their only hope and fervent desire is to return to the villages and towns of their homeland.
Syria agrees completely with all the points made by the High Commissioner and the remarks made by many other speakers here today. We are also deeply concerned over the refugee situation in Africa and believe that the African refugees, who continue to suffer the bitterness of displacement and poverty, must remain a top priority. In addition, we support the High Commissioner’ s remarks concerning the need to invest in areas to which refugees return.
While we express our thanks to the donor countries and our appreciation for their great efforts to ensure the return of refugees to their homelands, we note that the developing countries continue to bear the brunt of refugees on a global scale. We also call for the international protection of refugees so that their voluntary repatriation will be secured, while recognizing that voluntary repatriation under conditions of safety and dignity remains the best solution for refugees.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. The final text will be printed in the Official Records of the Security Council . Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-178.