Bassil is the fourth Lebanese politician to visit Moscow in recent weeks. AFP / Alexander NEMENOV
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Lebanon should not be hostage to the Syrian crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday in a joint news conference where he discussed refugee returns with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil.Bassil highlighted Lebanon's need to play a role in rebuilding Syria for its "economic regeneration".In an interview airing from Moscow with Russian news channel RT, Bassil said Lebanon had seen the largest portion of refugee returns in the region, topping Jordan.Bassil has been at odds with the U.N. agency, accusing it of discouraging Syrian refugees from returning home.The Russian Defense Ministry had announced that over 1.7 million Syrian refugees would be able to return to their homeland in the near future, including a possible 890,000 from Lebanon.Last month, Bassil's party, the Free Patriotic Movement, launched its central committee for the return of refugees, saying they posed a threat to Lebanon's identity and economy.Just under 1 million Syrian refugees are currently registered in Lebanon with the UNHCR, representing an estimated quarter of Lebanon's population, though officials have put the number closer to 1.5 million.There are no official camps in Lebanon for Syrian refugees, in contrast to the situation for the country's over 170,000 Palestinian refugees, many of whom live in 12 official camps.
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