(AINA) -- Lebanon's Foreign Minister, Gibran Basil, met with Assyrian leaders in North Iraq yesterday during a one day visit. The meeting was held at the headquarters of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Ankawa, north of Arbel. Ankawa, an Assyrian Christian town, has received a massive influx of 70,000 Assyrian refugees who fled in fear of ISIS from their villages in the Nineveh Plain.
Mr. Basil came to Iraq to look closely at the situation of the Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) who have been displaced from their areas in the Nineveh Plain after the withdrawal of the Kurdish forces and the occupation by ISIS, which forced 200,000 Assyrians to flee their homes and villages to Arbel and Dohuk.
The Foreign Minister was briefed on the political demands of the Assyrians, specifically on the need to liberate the Nineveh Plain area quickly to enable the refugees to return to their homes and the establishment of a safe haven under international protection during the transition phase, followed by the establishment of regular troops composed of Assyrians to enable them to participate in the protection of their homes and villages.
Mr. Basil said that Lebanon is prepared to support the Christian presence in Iraq and to bring the issue to the attention of of the international community. He stressed the need to focus on the demands and urged citizens to stay in their country and hold on to the land because emigration is not a solution. He also said solutions stem from the people's willingness to adhere to their lands and their rights and not to abandon them under any circumstances.
After the meeting with the Assyrian leaders, Mr. Basil issued the following statement in a press conference:
"We are here today not in order to weep with displaced people, we're not a religion of scars and tears, but the religion of the resurrection and life, and so we say we are staying, alive, carrying the message, we are not just threatened; the whole world is threatened, with our departure from this land no human will be secure on this earth and in this world; this is an existential danger for all religions; all the people are threatened, that is why our demands remain first and foremost that we stay; we demand to remain and persist; we will stay on this land, and we will prove we will go back to our villages.
International protection is the obligation and duty of the international community and not a demand from the elements Iraqi society, and we believe that the people of the region were trapped between the center [central government] and the region [KRG] and paid the price for neglect and abandonment, and so they are demanding secured supplies that enables them to hold their positions, because people need a means of survival, and not to migrate. And I say to them we welcome them in Lebanon as tourists and visitors, but their land is here, and the solution is not to receive a small number of the thousandth that are displaced. These international sins must be corrected by international policy for the protection of the diversity of all components of the Iraqi society.