The Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari, declared on Saturday that “circumstances are not favorable” for the return of displaced Syrians while acknowledging that “Lebanon is no longer in a position to support the massive presence of Syrian refugees on its territory.”

Speaking at a Caritas bishops’ conference in Grado, in the Italian province of Gorizia, he justified his reservations about Syrians returning home by pointing to the difficult socio-economic conditions in Syria, where “90% of the population now lives below the poverty line.”

On this occasion, Zenari recalled the “alarming” figures provided by the United Nations, namely 16.7 million people living in poverty, i.e. three-quarters of the Syrian population. “The number of people in need of humanitarian aid has increased by 9% compared to the previous year,” he noted.

This proportion and these figures are similar to those in Lebanon, where 80% of the population lives in poverty, according to UN agency estimates, and where the socio-economic situation is worsening due to inflation, a lack of reform, and, in some regions, particularly rural areas, unfair competition.

For the Nuncio, the Syrian refugee issue requires “a political solution, which unfortunately, according to analysts, is still a long way off.”

At a time when “90% of the (Syrian) population now lives below the poverty line,” the problem cannot be solved “by charity alone,” he said. These remarks come against the backdrop of efforts by the Lebanese government, in collaboration with the international community, to find a solution to the situation of displaced Syrians in Lebanon. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati discussed the issue with Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai in Bkerke on Saturday morning.

To help Syria, “the next European elections will indeed be crucial.” “It is essential to choose people capable of bringing about a change in what is happening in the world,” concluded Cardinal Zenari.