Beirut (AFP) – French President Francois Hollande met with Syrian refugee children in eastern Lebanon on Sunday before he was to head to Egypt as part of a four-day regional tour.
The French leader travelled to an informal settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley that is home to some 600 Syrian refugees, mostly women and children.
“I just visited a camp the likes of which are all over Lebanon,” Hollande told reporters after spending nearly an hour in the Al-Dalhamiyah camp.
“They (Syrian children) don’t want violence. They want to learn and go home, join their families, their country,” he said.
About 15 Syrian schoolchildren greeted the French president as he entered the large communal tent used as their makeshift school.
They recited a poem in Arabic and gave Hollande pictures they had drawn.
“You will be the messengers of peace… France’s children are thinking of you a lot,” Hollande told them.
He met with the UN refugee agency’s Lebanon representative Mireille Girard, who said difficult living conditions were forcing young Syrian children into child labour.
Lebanon, home to four million people, hosts more than one million Syrian refugees. France hosts more than 10,000.
Hollande landed in Beirut on Saturday for meetings with Lebanese officials and announced 100 million euros ($113 million) in assistance to the small Mediterranean country over the next three years.
He was to leave Lebanon on Sunday afternoon for Egypt and to eventually travel on to Jordan.
In Cairo, Hollande is expected to discuss with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi both the political crisis in Egypt’s western neighbour Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His visit to Jordan on Tuesday will take him to the Prince Hassan air base, 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Amman.
French aircraft taking part in the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq and Syria are stationed at the base.