BEIRUT – British Prime Minister David Cameron met Monday with Syrian refugees in Lebanon who will resettle in Britain and vowed to continue his country's support for Lebanese troops fighting the extremists of the Islamic State group.
Cameron spoke after meeting his Lebanese counterpart Tammam Salam in Beirut. Earlier in the day, the British premier visited the eastern Bekaa Valley and met some refugees who fled Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 250,000 people.
Cameron's visit to Beirut comes as tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are struggling to reach Europe on dangerous sea voyages and long overland treks. The British Prime Minister said earlier this month that Britain will take in up to 20,000 refugees over the next five years.
"This morning I was in the Bekaa Valley to see for myself that (Lebanese) hospitality and meeting with some of the Syrian refugees that we will resettle in the United Kingdom," Cameron told reporters after meeting Salam. The area that Cameron visited is less than a mile from the Syrian border.
Lebanon hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees — equivalent to a quarter of the country's entire population.
"The refugee crisis that today has reached the heart of Europe is a phenomenon that will not stop expanding unless a political solution is reached that stops the war in Syria," Salam said.
Some 4 million Syrians have fled the country since the start of an uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011. Today the Islamic State group controls nearly half the country.
Cameron said Britain, which has already trained over 5,000 Lebanese soldiers and helped build a series of watch towers on the border with Syria, would continue to help defend Lebanon from the IS group, which holds territory just 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the border.
"We also discussed that both our countries face extremism and what more we can do to work together to defeat this threat," Cameron said.
During his visit, Cameron announced that he will be appointing Richard Harrington as minister for Syrian refugees to ensure the arrivals are given a "warm welcome" in Britain.