Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai lashed out on Sunday at European countries that refuse to “cooperate with Lebanon” in resolving the issue of Syrian migrants, arguing that “they are paving the way for criminals and terrorists.”

“The situation in the region requires the presence of a president of the Republic,” said Rai in his homily on Sunday, as the presidential vacancy persists since the end of former Head of State Michel Aoun’s term in office on October 31, 2022. “The same applies to the war in Gaza, the issue of Syrian migrants and anyone whose presence in Lebanon is illegal, and the return of Syrians to safe areas of their country, bearing in mind that the surface area of these regions is far greater than that of Lebanon,” he added.

Rai expressed his regret at “the lack of cooperation between European and Western countries and Lebanon in resolving the problem of migrants and ensuring their return home,” in reference to the billion euros allocated on May 2 by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, during a visit to Lebanon.

According to the Patriarch, this is because “these countries continue to exploit this issue for political ends in Syria, and refuse to separate the political problem from the return of Syrians.” “As a result, they are inflicting this burden and its dangerous repercussions on Lebanon, unaware that they are paving the way for criminals and terrorists whose preferred breeding ground will be these same European countries,” he warned.

Patriarch Rai also criticized, without naming it, the Moumanaa axis for “blocking the election of a president of the Republic.” For him, these parties “do not want a head of state, since they are taking advantage of his absence to further consolidate their power and continue to manipulate the population, its destiny and the Constitution.”

He therefore called on these leaders “not to divert attention from the fundamental and vital need for Lebanon to elect a head of state, so that Parliament and the Government can recover their prerogatives in accordance with the Constitution.”

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