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Bern to help Beirut take in Syrian refugees

Didier Burkhalter (right) meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman Keystone

Switzerland has pledged to assist Lebanon in housing refugees who have fled from neighbouring crisis-torn Syria. Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter met with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Beirut on Saturday.

Burkhalter also visited the Beirut office of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). At the SDC’s request, Bern recently increased its humanitarian aid budget for Syria by two million francs, bringing the total to over SFr10 million ($10.25 million).

This funding includes support for Lebanese families who have taken Syrian refugees into their homes. More than 41,000 Syrians have reportedly fled westward.

Burkhalter met with his Lebanese counterpart as well as the president and parliament speaker, as a spokesman for the Swiss foreign ministry told the Swiss News Agency.

He told them that Switzerland hoped that the conflict in Syria could be resolved through political means and with the input of all parties. In addition, Switzerland insists that those who have committed war crimes be punished.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) says its aid efforts focus on the protection of people in Syria and in neighbouring states.

SDC’s aid budget, worth about SFr8.5 million ($8.6 million), is used for families in Lebanon which put up Syrian refugees and for a project to rebuild schools for Syrian children in Jordan.

On July 24, the agency announced it was releasing another SFr2 million. However, it is not clear yet what projects will be funded.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR