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Top Dutch diplomat in Beirut to discuss refugee crisis

AFP , Monday 21 Sep 2015
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The Dutch foreign minister arrived in Beirut Monday to discuss the refugee crisis facing Europe and the Middle East with his Lebanese counterpart, ahead of a summit on the subject this week.

At a news conference with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, Bert Koenders said he would visit a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley the following morning.

"I would like to welcome the fact that Lebanon has shown a very important role and responsibility in this crisis," Koenders said, adding that the Netherlands realised Lebanon was "under pressure".

Lebanon, a country of four million people, is hosting more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees who have fled the nearly five-year war across the border.

In recent weeks, thousands of refugees and migrants, many of them from Syria, have taken to an illegal route across land and sea to reach safety in Europe.

European Union countries are scrambling to manage the massive influx, with EU leaders set to discuss the crisis at a regional summit on Wednesday.

"Now that the mass migration waves have touched Europe... we witness shut borders all over the continent," said Bassil.

Bassil said Lebanon had been coping with the "harsh reality" of its large refugee population "despite our scarce resources".

He said the solution to the ongoing refugee crisis would be reaching a political solution to Syria's entrenched conflict.

Koenders, too, said it was "essential to find a solution to this deep, deep crisis" in Syria.

He said the Netherlands had allocated $25 million for reception facilities in Lebanon.

"It's important to note that this amount of money... is something meant for refugees but also Lebanese communities," the Dutch diplomat said.

An official from within Koenders' delegation said he had arrived in Beirut from Tehran, and that he would also meet Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Rashid Derbas on Tuesday.

His visit comes one week after British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

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