Abbas: All Palestinians should be given right to return home

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Lebanon on Thursday that all Palestinians should be given the right to return home.

The highly contentious notion of a Palestinian “right of return” is one key issues in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for peace agreement.

“The refugees should have the right of return to their homeland and we are negotiating this with the Israelis. I have to say we are not with permanent settlement of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. We are against permanent resettlement,” Abbas told reporters after meeting Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on a visit to Beirut.
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Abbas also said he rejects the idea that Palestinian refugees might be forced to stay in Lebanon permanently.

The Palestinian president added that he supports all decisions made by the Lebanese government on how to deal with Palestinian militants outside the refugee camps.

“The camps in Lebanon are part of the Lebanese territories and part of the Lebanese government’s responsibility, regarding security and non-security matters,” Abbas said. “We are ready to cooperate by all means because we do not see ourselves as being in charge of security inside the camps,” he said.

Impoverished and densely packed Palestinian camps have become fertile ground for Palestinian factions vying for control.

About 400,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in twelve refugee camps around Lebanon. The refugee camps were set up for Palestinians displaced during the 1948 War of Independence that led to the creation of the state of Israel.

The fate of millions of Palestinian refugees is one of the most difficult issues in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Israel has refused to accept the return of refugees, believing that they should be resettled in a future Palestinian state or the places where they now live.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said this week that the right of return is incompatible with the creation of a Palestinian state.

Many Lebanese are opposed the permanent resettlement of Palestinian refugees, fearing they would tip the country’s delicate sectarian balance.

Ref: Haaretz

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