By Wassim Seifeddine
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel to help his country gradually repatriate its large Syrian refugee population.
He made the appeal during a Friday meeting with Merkel at the presidential palace in Beirut.
Aoun cited his country's long experience with the unresolved dispute over Cyprus and the seven-decade-long Palestine-Israel conflict.
“Lebanon has borne a lot as a result of the Syrian crisis,” he said, pointing out that his country currently hosts 1.8 million refugees from all over the region.
Aoun also thanked Merkel for Germany’s ongoing support for the Lebanese armed forces.
Merkel, for her part, expressed her country's desire to continue supporting Lebanon -- in various fields -- with a view to helping it meet the region’s numerous challenges.
According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon stood at some 997,000 as of the end of last year, not including those who were not registered with the UNHCR.
During the German chancellor’s two-day visit to Beirut, she also met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Merkel's visit to Lebanon is her second since she assumed office in 2005.
In January, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also paid a visit to Lebanon.