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Moscow hosts another extended session of Russian and Syrian joint coordination centres of repatriation of refugees

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev

On this day, a year ago, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation successfully completed an counter-terrorism operation against terrorist groups, including the ISIS army of many thousands in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. Only several US-backed disparate groups have survived in regions east of the Euphrates and in Al-Tanf area. The remnants of Jabhat al-Nusra militants have been blocked in the Idlib de-escalation zone.

During the operation, 1,411 settlements were liberated, with 96.5 per cent of the country's territory under control of government troops and militia.

The completion of the operation made it possible to significantly reduce the grouping of Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria and begin to restore peaceful life.

In accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on ways to resolve the Syrian crisis, the Constitutional Committee is being formed with participation of opposition and representatives of the entire spectrum of the Syrian multinational civil society.

This autumn there were first municipal elections in past eight years, during which more than 40,000 candidates from various parties and movements claimed 18,478 seats.

Since the beginning of this year, under an active mediating role of Russia, more than 100 negotiations and meetings have been held at many international venues at various levels, including with participation of the leaders of the guarantor countries in Sochi, Astana, Tehran, Istanbul and Geneva, on settlement of the Syrian crisis and restoration of peaceful life in Syria.

Amid positive changes, there is a massive refugees inflow back to Syria.

The Russian joint coordination centre on repatriation of refugees was established on 18 July this year to intensify repatriation of refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic back to their places of pre-war residence. Representatives of over 20 Russian ministries and departments are working in the centre.

Almost the same interdepartmental coordination centre was formed in early September by the Syrian government. Representatives of over 15 Syrian ministries and departments are working in the centre.

In parallel, a joint Syrian-Lebanese Committee with participation of relevant agencies has been set up to coordinate the return of Syrian refugees. Moreover the Syrian-Jordanian working group cooperation on refugees has been set up at the monitoring centre in Amman.

In addition, close work has been organized with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in Geneva.

Ten crossing points have been deployed at the Syrian-Lebanese and Syrian-Jordanian borders, as well as in the area of the Idlib de-escalation zone, at the port of Banias and at Damascus international airport. They are operating 24 hours a day.

There are 1,497,650 places arranged to receive and accommodate refugees in 412 settlements less affected by the combat actions.

Work is actively carried out on construction and reconstruction of industrial, agricultural, transport and socially important facilities in Syria. In November this year, the Syrian government adopted a program of post-war development of the country and began its implementation. It is based on formation of industrial clusters to revive production capacity and organize return of Syrian citizens in order to restore human resources.

International organizations are also becoming increasingly involved in the return of refugees. On December 6, officials of the Ministry of foreign Affairs and the Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation met in Moscow with a delegation of the office of the United Nations high Commissioner for refugees under the leadership of Amin Awad, Director of the Bureau for the Middle East and North Africa, who informed about the activities of the organization, which has significantly expanded its presence in the country. This is proved by recently opened offices including those in Deir ez-Zor and Daraa to help the Syrian side receive civilians returning back home.

The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is interested in developing contacts with the Syrian government and Russian representatives in Syria and in identifying priorities for ensuring the return of refugees to the country, including legal challenges, logistics and a set of social issues.

At present there are 1,550,009 Syrian returnees including 1,259,731 internally displaced persons and 290,278 refugees from abroad.

Since the beginning of the year, 291,311 Syrian citizens have returned to their homes, including 117,369 internally displaced persons and 113,942 refugees from foreign countries.

Mainly the returnees are crossing the Syrian-Lebanese and Syrian-Jordanian borders. The Nasib CP is operating most actively, through which 31,197 people have returned from Jordan since the beginning of the initiative for the return of refugees.

The number of citizens arriving in the country is growing, and it is very important that there is a positive trend in restoring the social facilities and infrastructure of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Over the past week, the following facilities were repaired and commissioned in:

4,690 houses,

266 medical institutions,

1,464 educational institutions,

284 water supply facilities,

274 bakeries,

1,022 power supply stations,

14,239 industrial enterprises.

Currently, in 336 settlements work is underway to overhaul:

206 schools,

184 kindergartens,

190 bakeries,

225 water pump stations,

195 power substations,

183 medical institutions,

2,108 houses and 91 places of worship.

These figures show that the process of establishing a peaceful life in Syria has become irreversible. Decent living conditions are being created for citizens, people are provided with employment, schoolchildren and students are studying, and medical services are being rendered to the population.

It is significant that tourism is recovered in the country. For instance, under the auspices of the Syrian Ministry of Culture, main cultural heritage sites for tourists were opened in Busra al-Sham.  The local administration expects a speedy resumption of the tourist stream to the province of Daraa, freed from illegal armed formations.

The main result of the year-the first year of peaceful life-is that the Syrians are returning to their homes and see with their own eyes – the war is over, revival of the country is well under way.

Probably, only our American partners still do not want to see how much has been done to revive peaceful life in Syria. With unfathomable stubbornness, they retain the 55km-zone around al-Tanf, where six thousand armed militants on the loose, and impede dismantling of the Rukban refugee camp.

This is almost the last stronghold of evil, injustice and horror for ordinary Syrian citizens, arranged by the United States on the territory of the independent state.

I would like to stress once again that Rukban is a territory, illegally occupied by the United States, so the entire responsibility for the living conditions of Syrian citizens in the camp lies only with the United States.

The idea of a second humanitarian convoy to the Rukban camp is now being promoted through the United Nations. Both Russian and Syrian sides are ready to support this initiative.

At the same time it is necessary to avoid mistakes made during the delivery of the first humanitarian convoy to the camp. In particular, we are talking about distribution of humanitarian relief, creation of conditions when material values fall into the hands of militants in control over the area.

It is necessary to organize strict control at all stages of the convoy movement, as well as the process of distribution of humanitarian aid to the civilians of the Rukban camp.

And all this should take place only under the auspices of the UN with the direct participation of the world media outlets, including distribution of humanitarian aid directly by personnel authorized by the United Nations.

Raqqa is another non-healing wound on the long-suffering body of Syria, where, a humanitarian catastrophe has been maintained for a year under silent inaction by the American side.

The city is actually wiped off the face of the earth. Large-scale demining has not been launched yet. As a result, explosive ordnance daily kill or injure local residents.

There is no rehabilitation of housing and infrastructure, no electricity, no running water, no shops and no hospitals.

There is a large number of unburied dead bodies under the rubble, which leads to a deterioration of sanitary-epidemic situation and risk of epidemics of severe infectious diseases.

Such position of the USA shows a complete lack of interest in stabilization of situation in areas occupied by them.

Report by I.Tsarikov, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation gives priority to facilitating repatriation of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons.

We work with authorities of Lebanon, Jordan and other regional and international partners of Russia, as well as with the UN specialised agencies. Proposals made by our partners are submitted to the Syrian government. We also work with the Syrian government to taken into account proposals received.

At the same there is growing concern about dubious activity of the US and its allies. Illegal occupation of the 55km zone round al-Tanf is the main source of destabilization in this part of Syria.

The humanitarian operation in early November turned out to be a failure from an organizational viewpoint. UN and SARC representatives were not allowed to enter the US-occupied zone. The Magavir-al-Saura militants were involved in distribution of the humanitarian relief. In the absence of the necessary control, a significant part of humanitarian assistance has not reached those in need, but has fallen into the hands of illegal armed groups.

Despite the fact that the United States bears full responsibility for distressful situation in the area, the mistakes of the first humanitarian convoy with the tacit consent of the UN may be repeated during the second humanitarian operation in the Rukban camp.

In our opinion, not only delivery, but also distribution of humanitarian aid should involve authoritative international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent Society. We urge our partners to avoid repeating the mistakes that have been made, but in general, the main efforts should be aimed at dissolution of the camp and resettlement of its inhabitants.

In contacts with partners, we invariably raise the issue to increase the practical contribution to creating favorable conditions for reception of returning people, primarily through restoration of necessary social economic infrastructure. This would allow fathers of families to get a decent salary, and their families not to experience problems due to the lack of normal electricity and water supply, a shortage of consumer goods, and children to be able to attend schools and study in secondary and higher educational institutions. We stress that all these are humanitarian issues that should not be politicized and should not be subject to conditions addressed to the leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Pursuant to the decree No. 18 of the President of Syria dated October 9, 2016, more than 14,000 people have filed documents on Amnesty, which applies to persons who evaded conscription or voluntarily left the place of military service.

We consider it important to continue the practice of exchanging detainees/hostages between Damascus and the Syrian opposition within the framework of the relevant working group of the Astana process. The first such exchange (10 for 10) took place on November 24 this year. The second is planned to be held by the end of this year. It will include up to 50 people from each side. This will increase level of trust between the Syrian parties, including in the interests of advancing a political settlement and normalizing situation "on the ground."

With other Astana guarantors we continue to work on formation and launch of the Constitutional Committee. Russia supports representation of all Syrian major political forces and so that the composition would satisfy the Syrian Government and opposition which would ensure stable and effective work.

We believe that the Syrian conflict can be resolved only by the Syrians themselves with the assistance of the United Nations in accordance with Resolution 2254 of the Security Council and the decisions of the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev

An extremely important issue is restoration of Syria's positions in the foreign policy arena, in particular its membership in the League of Arab States. This will send a strong signal to the international community about the return of the country to peaceful life and progress of political settlement of the crisis, as well as encourage refugees to return to their homes.

Today, the Rukban refugee camp is a most urgent issue. This is, above all, an extremely serious humanitarian problem, the solution of which we see only through liberation by the United States of the Syrian territory illegally occupied by it round al-Tanf.

Report by the Deputy Head of the Syrian Joint Coordination HQ Muteza Kattana

The Syrian government continues to work actively to create favorable conditions for the return of citizens who were forced leave their homes because of the war. As part of this process, funding has recently been approved for a number of infrastructure rehabilitation projects and creation of decent living conditions for Syrian residents and returnees, their jobs and social guarantees.

During the phased implementation of the state program of the country's revival, the restoration of the destroyed infrastructure in Aleppo was financed. This decision was made following the last visit of the government delegation to the province in order to resume the work of the al-Khal trading platform in the area Of al-Ramusi as soon as possible, accelerate repair and reconstruction of the bus station, restore the southern ring road from the Jisral-Hajj junction to the descent of al-Ansari, reconstruction of al-Arqub Park, repair of street lighting and clearing debris.

In addition, financial resources have been allocated:

for reconstruction of the Damascus-Homs highway from the al-Kabun road junction to the junction at the Panorama memorial complex;

on clearing rubble and demolition of dilapidated buildings, implementation of preparatory work to launch the South ring road (from junction at the Panorama memorial complex to the 5th interchange);

reconstruction of the buildings of the Nasib border crossing point due to the increase in the flow of returning Syrian citizens from the territory of Jordan;

on restoration of destroyed power grids in the provinces of Quneitra and Daraa.

As part of the transfer of the country to peaceful rails, financial resources were allocated to carry out work to relocate state-owned industrial enterprises to the Al-Kabun area that had been evacuated earlier due to hostilities. Among them, the largest are the  State Textile Company,  Al-Homasiya - a company for the production of canned goods and agricultural products, a company for the production of metal structures, Al-Ahliya - a company for production of rubber products in Damascus and the Technological Institute of the Chemical Industry.

The government also continues to finance:

repair and reconstruction of schools in the provinces of Aleppo, Rif Damascus, Daraa, al-Quneitra, Homs and Deir-ez-Zor;

rehabilitation of drinking water systems in liberated areas of the southern and northern sectors of al-Quneitra province;

commissioning of a network of main and secondary roads in some areas of the Rif Damascus province (Haran al-Awamied – al-Uteyba – Deir Salman – An-Nashabiyah – Douma – Ayn Tarma – Al-Sbena), repair of the asphalt track from the area of Abu-Zad to the road of al-Hassan and roads al-Hassan from the area of al-Fundouk to Al-Daura.

Work is underway to deploy reception sites for refugees and internally displaced persons. Considerable funds were allocated for construction of houses in Adra for the temporary residence of persons whose housing was destroyed as a result of hostilities.

However, soon our difficulties are not limited only to the hard work to rebuild the country from the post-war devastation, but also to eliminate consequences caused by natural disasters. Thus, the administration of the Latakia province uses reserves to assist farmers and private entrepreneurs who have suffered significant losses this year as a result of prolonged drought.

The authorities of the SAR Ministry of Industry in 2019 deliberately put the metallurgical plant in Hama province to full capacity. After the completion of repair work, the performance of the plant will increase by 30% and exceed 200 tons of rolled metal products per day.

Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic Abdulmunem Anan

Syria's leadership calls for all Syrians forced to leave their homes due to the crisis to return home.

The government supports the voluntary repatriation and is working to ensure that citizens enjoyed a decent standard of living and security.

As part of the implementation of these goals, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues an active dialogue with representatives of the UN and non-governmental international organizations operating in the country. Many of them expressed their desire to participate in helping Syria's leadership to create an enabling environment for returnees.

The process of preparation and holding of joint meetings of Syrian businessmen both at home and abroad has already been launched to determine the role and possible participation of the private sector in the process of Syria's recovery, as well as to attract foreign investment, including capital that left the country because of the crisis.

Our Embassy in Amman is working closely with the Jordanian mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees and regularly receives information on the increase in the number of internally displaced persons from the Syrian Arab Republic who have expressed their intention to return to their pre-war places of residence.

We are actively engaged in a dialogue with our Lebanese partners, who are also seriously working to increase the flow of Syrian citizens to their homeland.

Many citizens do not hold Syrian passports, but our embassies and consulates, not only in Jordan and Lebanon, are ready to provide all citizens with identity documents. For this all the amendments have been made into the law on civil statusproviding a simplified procedure for ensuring return of refugees.

Report by representative of Syrian Ministry of Interior Brigade General Abdulhamid Saadat

Within the framework of measures developed by the Syrian government to settle the legal status of citizens who have deserted or fought on the side of illegal armed groups, as well as their family members, a committee composed of representatives of security agencies, the Military Court and the Ministry of Justice, work is underway on implementation of decrees of the President of the Syrian Arab Republic B. Assad on amnesty, according to which these citizens were able to settle their status in the period from October 9, 2018 to February 9, 2019 Under the Amnesty decrees, deserters or persons who had fought on the side of illegal armed groups and were present in the country had been able to regularize their status within four months. The current practical results of this work testify to the correctness of the decision taken and the need for further action to integrate both deserters and former members of the illegal armed groups, to promote process of national reconciliation in post-conflict situations.

As for obtaining new documents in return for lost ones, in accordance with the order of the Minister of the Interior of April 28, 2015 No. 1738, they are issued to citizens after they filed documentary evidence of the loss. After that, the relevant Department of the Migration and Passport Control in any province prepares a new passport and other necessary documents, as well as takes decisions on settlement of the status of the applicant.

At present, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Syria, is intensifying work to prepare the required documents and settle the status in the Syrian embassies or consulates directly in the territory of the States where Syrian citizens have left to when escaping hostilities. This will allow our compatriots to return to the country with ready-made documents, and will accelerate the process of repatriation.

Report of Governor of Rif-Damascus province, Syrian Arab Republic, al-Ibraghim

A striking proof of the restoration of peaceful life in the province of Rif-Damascus is the large number of our compatriots returning back to their homes.

The provincial authorities welcomed 18,745 returnees from Lebanon, Jordan and other States and actively implemented various humanitarian programmes in the areas of health, education, social security of refugees, rehabilitation of infrastructure and socially important facilities.

Currently, water and electricity supply systems in most settlements have been restored, more than 350 drinking water storage facilities in Eastern Ghouta, Douma and Daraa have been prepared.

In Eastern Ghouta, agricultural activity has been restored on 22,000 hectares of arable land out of 32,000 available in the province. The remaining 10,000 hectares are being cleared.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 65 schools have been repaired in the province, several transformer substations have been installed, municipal service stations for clearing rubble and asphalting roads have been established, and more than 40 bakeries have been launched. In addition to this restored one hospital, 18 clinics, dozens of medical centers, 314 power substations, have been repaired as well as telephone lines, sewer network; humanitarian relief is being distributed.

There is extensive work to recover forestry. At present, more than 7 million trees have been lost in the province as a result of the fighting.

Despite temporary difficulties, the authorities of the Rif-Damascus will make every effort to ensure the safe return of all citizens with the provision of social support measures and restoration of important infrastructure.

Report by Chief of the Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring Lieutenant General Sergei Solomatin

Over the past day, the refugee checkpoints have continued to operate in normal mode.

Over the past month, in total 5,827 people (52 women and 89 children) left Lebanon for Syria via the Jaydet-Yabus and Talkalakh CPs.

20,438 people have passed via the Nasib CP from Jordan.

It is reported that 12,215 Syrians returned back to:

Eastern Ghouta (Damascus province) - 888 people.

6,651 people returned back to the places of permanent residence in Deir ez-Zor, Damascus and Homs provinces through the checkpoint al-Salhiyah.

A total of 4,676 people have passed via the Abu al-Duhur CP from the Idlib de-escalation zone.

Over the past month the Russian side has organised a humanitarian action delivering 11,963 food sets with a total weight of 45.87 tons.

In total, the Russian side has organised and carried out 2,012 humanitarian actions, delivering  3,157.77 tons of food supplies, the bare necessities and bottled water.

In total over the past month 3,019 Syrians have been provided with medical assistance by Russian military medics.

In total, 100,785 Syrians were provided with medical assistance by Russian military medics.

We have no issues of concern.

Report by Chief of the Branch of the Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring at Nasib CP Lieutenant General Vladimir Savchenko

The Nasib checkpoint has been opened by mutual agreement between the Jordanian and Syrian sides. Its capacity is up to 4,000 people and up to 50 vehicles per day.

Refugees are received at the check point every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Each returned refugee meets with representatives of the administration individually. People are provided with food and an opportunity to rest at the CP.

All those who have passed control and registration, are sent at their own request to the place of residence on the bus or own vehicle. They are also provided with food sets and clothing.

Over the past month, 20,438 people (6,150 women and 10,426 women) have returned from Jordan back to Syria.

Since October 15 – as the Nasib CP fully resumed its operation – 30,879 people (9,264 Women, children – 15,748) have returned from Jordan to Syria. And these are only people who were forced to leave their homeland.

In total, more than 139,000 citizens, about 59,000 cars and 2,000 trucks crossed the border in both directions during the period of operation of the checkpoint. People cross the border with personal belongings, goods, and a large number of cattle.

Report by representative of Russian EMERCOM Aleksander Nogin

The Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia conducts consistent work on realization of tasks aimed to restore peace and support population of Syrian Arab Republic.

Therefore there are several draft administrative documents on establishment, equipping and ensuring activities of the Russian-Syrian humanitarian center in Syria prepared and are undergoing the procedure of internal coordination.

Syrian humanitarian issues are resolved in close cooperation with the United Nations Mine Action Service, which ultimately ensures sustainable post-conflict rehabilitation of the Syrian Arab Republic, training local specialists in accordance with international mine action standards and mine risk issues.

In addition, the Russian Emergency Ministry will assist the Syrian side in restoring the state’s system to counter natural and industrial disasters.

In addition, during 2018, the EMERCOM of Russia carried out several operations to deliver humanitarian aid to the population of the Syrian Arab Republic, which was affected during the military conflict, with a total weight of over 160 tons. These are food products (oil, rice, buckwheat, canned food), medical dressings, detergents, 10-seater tents, blankets, tableware and other materials.

These humanitarian operations are aimed at stabilizing situation in the Syrian Arab Republic and designed to support Syrian citizens who wish to return to their homeland.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev

Effective humanitarian demining today is of paramount importance for restoration of peaceful life and has a direct impact on security of the country's citizens.

The UNMAS mine action service will open its office in Damascus in the near future. Together with the Syrian government, priority areas for total demining have also been identified, - al-Kabun and Eastern Ghouta. The Norwegian side is planning to visit the Syrian Arab Republic in January next year to clarify the scope of the upcoming work.

We have repeatedly appealed to the American side to promote humanitarian demining in Syria in areas not controlled by the Syrian government. They offered their participation in the demining of the city of Raqqa, which, unfortunately, was destroyed by the international coalition. But there is no result for today.

Perhaps our activity in dealing with humanitarian demining issues together with international organizations will make US representatives finally pay attention and change their position on this issue.

Speech by the representative of Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare) Julia Demina

In order to ensure the sanitary and epidemiological well-being of the population of the Russian Federation, Rospotrebnadzor conducts an assessment of epidemiological risks of imported and spread infectious diseases in a permanent mode.

To this end:

we cooperate with the Federal Executive authorities concerned to organize sanitary and quarantine control of Russian and Syrian citizens arriving in Russia from the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular children;

we prepared a draftwith amendments proposed by the Syrian side, on Memorandum with the Ministry of Health of the Syrian Arab Republic on cooperation in the fight against infectious diseases. It has been submitted to the Syrian Ministry of Health for consideration.

Rospotrebnadzor is ready to sign the draft Memorandum during the upcoming Russian-Syrian contacts at the highest level, as well as to continue joint work on the preparation of a detailed program of cooperation for the implementation of this document.

Managing any sanitary and epidemiological risks is extremely important for Syria and is in demand during the period of the return of Syrian citizens and establishment of a peaceful life in the country.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev

The past year has brought many victories and important achievements towards the establishment of peaceful life in the Syrian Arab Republic. Together, we have achieved a lot and laid important grounds for moving forward towards our common goal – prosperity of Syria. At this stage it is important to keep the pace and develop success in out work next year.

I would ask all officials in their areas of activity to consider available opportunities to broaden range of issues to support the restoration of peaceful life in Syria.

I would ask representatives of the Russian and Syrian foreign ministries to intensify work in facilitating inter-Syrian dialogue and also promoting political process including formation and launch of the Constitutional Committee.

I ask all officials of the interdepartmental coordinating headquarters to continue round-the-clock interaction across the entire spectrum of issues relating to restoring peace and repatriation of refugees and IDPs, to respond promptly to any problematic issues and to resolve them immediately and jointly.

It is of paramount importance to continue to convey to the international community, Syrian citizens living abroad, reliable information on recovery of Syria through the mass media and the Internet. It is necessary to stop the Western media from hushing up the progress made in the work to establish a peaceful life in the Syrian Arab Republic.

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