Syria FM's 'trash talk' provokes anger in neighbouring Lebanon
Syria's foreign minister has sparked anger in neighbouring Lebanon after he criticised the country's waste management crisis.
Walid Muallem made the comments at a press conference on Saturday, while speaking about Lebanese fears that controversial property law could hinder the return of refugees.
"We have been at war for seven years… and no one has gone without bread - even electricity has been repaired, and in most of our streets we do not have rubbish like our neighbour," Muallem said, referring to Lebanon.
Photos and video footage of the sheer destruction of Syrian towns have been published and seen all around the world for the past seven years.
Syrian men, women and children in tears have been on our TV screens, telling their stories of death, despair and displacement on the nightly news almost daily since President Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown on protests in 2011 developed into a deadly war against his people as he clung to power with the support of Russia and Iran.
|The scale of destruction of Syrian cities (such as Aleppo, pictured) is known around the world, yet Muallem claimed Lebanon's streets were worse [AFP]|
"We are keen for displaced Syrians to return to their hometowns and we will provide all necessary facilitations to those who wish to return," added Muallem.
Muallem's remark on Beirut's waste management crisis that erupted in 2015 prompted an angry response from Lebanon's minister of education.
"Having rubbish in our streets is better than having dead bodies and dismembered limbs," Marwan Hamade said, according to Syrian opposition news website Zaman al-Wasl.
Lebanese social media users also condemned the Syrian minister's criticism.
The Lebanese rubbish crisis began in August 2015 after the government was unable to secure a new landfill following the closure of a waste dump south of Beirut.
The crisis united Lebanese citizens, who protested under the banner "You Stink" - a reference both to the garbage stench accompanying the summer heat and popular views of the nation's politicians.
Lebanon's top diplomat last week warned that a recent Syrian property confiscation law could dispossess hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees from their land, leaving them permanently displaced in Lebanon.
The law, known as Decree 10, allows Syria's regime to seize private property for zoned developments and reward "proven owners"- ie: Assad supporters who have not been forced to flee - with shares in the new projects.
The law allowed one month for home-owners to file paperwork at government offices to register their property, or face having homes that will have been held by some families for many generations stolen by the state.
Rights groups and lawyers fear that millions of Syrians who have sought safety abroad have neither the correct paperwork nor enough time to register their homes.
Lebanon, a country of just over four million people, has seen its water, electricity, and waste removal infrastructure strained by the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees.
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