Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation : More

Joint coordination headquarters hold another session in Moscow to discuss the repatriation of Syrian refugees

Report by Local Administration Minister of the Syrian Arab Republic Hussein Makhlouf

Today we hold another session of joint coordination headquarters of the Russian Federation and the Syrian Arab Republic.

First of all, I would like to express gratitude to our Russian friends for their efforts in the fight against terrorism and for the support given to Syria in restoring stability, security and establishing state power in most parts of the country, as well as for their participation in accelerating the repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons.

Representatives of the joint coordination committees of Russia and Syria continue close cooperation in order to implement repatriation of Syrian refugees.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 202,000 Syrians have returned back to their homes, with over 30,000 internally displaced persons and more than 171,000 refugees from abroad.

Measures are being actively taken to rehabilitate social infrastructure of the country. Since January 1, 2019, 649 houses, 33 medical institutions, 47 educational institutions, 34 water supply facilities, 46 bakeries have been repaired and commissioned in various parts of the country.

Despite the economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies against the people of Syria, the pace of restoring peaceful life in the country has not decreased.

Much attention is paid to attracting investment. The Syrian government has simplified the approval procedures for development and modernization projects of real estate and tourism infrastructure, which will undoubtedly contribute to the revival of the country's economy.

Extensive preparatory work is being carried out for the 61st Damascus International Fair, which will be held from August 26 to September 6, 2019. Twenty-four states have already confirmed their participation in the event.

Realizing the importance of avoiding a sharp rise in the cost of consumer goods, the government is constantly working to regulate the prices for basic food supplies and essential goods.

In order to maintain conditions favourable for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to the places of pre-war residence, the government is carrying out comprehensive measures to create new jobs for Syrian citizens.

Intense efforts are continuously being made to encourage the repatriation of Syrian refugees from abroad and to facilitate border crossing procedure.

The government of Syria continues to work on amnesty for those who evaded conscription, including refugees and former members of illegal armed groups. As of June 10, 2019, 58,036 people have been granted amnesty.

We expect that the measures taken by the Syrian leadership to restore a peaceful life in the country will give a significant increase in the number of Syrian citizens wishing to return to their homeland.

Unfortunately, establishment of a peaceful life in Syria still encounters serious difficulties beyond the country's leadership.

The US and its Western allies, instead of real aid to the Syrian people, exploit humanitarian problems to attack Syria, distort the image of state power and public opinion.

We draw the attention of the international community and international humanitarian organizations that the presence of any foreign armed forces on Syrian territory without the consent of the Syrian authorities is aggression and occupation.

The problem of the Rukban camp in the Al-Tanf zone remains extremely serious, where, according to the United Nations, the situation will only deteriorate amid rising daily average temperatures and food shortage.

Thanks to the constant efforts of the Syrian government, with close and fruitful cooperation with Russian friends, more than 13,500 Syrian citizens have been evacuated from the Rukban camp. They were taken to temporary reception centres in the provinces of Homs and Rif-Damascus, where they received the necessary humanitarian and medical assistance, and the children were vaccinated. The average length of stay in such centres is only about 24 hours. Afterwards, they are given the opportunity to leave for the place of residence they chose.

Representatives of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, following their visits to these centres, confirmed their compliance with international standards and commended the efforts of the Syrian authorities to prepare places for receiving refugees.

However, some 29,000 "prisoners", most of whom are women and children, are still held in the camp under unbearable conditions. The non-constructive position of the United States, hampering the repatriation of refugees under various pretexts, still hinders the prompt solution of the Rukban problem.

A situation on the left shore of the Euphrates is of particular concern. The US contingent still illegally remains in this part of Syria, despite the announced final defeat of the Islamic State terrorist group, which is supposedly the purpose of the US presence in Syria.

With their complete inaction and connivance, the situation was even direr in the al-Hol refugee camp in Al-Hasakah province where more than 73,000 people found themselves in the most difficult conditions.

We drew attention to the assessment of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the situation in the camp. We believe that the conclusions are based on not entirely reliable information. The situation in al-Hol is close to a humanitarian crisis. The camp is an increasing prison where crime and violence flourish.

We are confident that the most effective solution to the problem of Rukban and al-Hol refugees would be the immediate cessation of the illegal occupation of Syrian territory by American troops, which support illegal armed groups and impede the restoration of a peaceful life in Syria.

Dear colleagues! Now we shall listen to the reports.

Report by Dr. Faisal Mekdad

At first, I would like to thank the chairman of the joint coordination headquarter and its members, and especially representatives of the Russian Federation, for their efforts in fighting terrorism and restoring security and peace in Syria, as well as for creating favourable conditions for the refugees to return to their homes.

In this regard, I would like to say that the Syrian government uses all possible ways and means to reduce the suffering of refugees and internally displaced persons and simplify procedures for their early return. To achieve this goal, the Syrian leadership gave all the necessary instructions for sending two humanitarian convoys in cooperation with the United Nations and SARC to the Rukban camp over the past period. In addition, we began important negotiations with the UN and held a number of joint meetings to end the suffering of the camp residents and ensure their safe return to their pre-war places.

The Syrian government is convinced that the final and correct solution to the Rukban camp problem lies in its closure and the early return of the camp inhabitants to their cities and villages, which they were forced to leave because of the terrorism. However, as you know we are constantly faced with the tough position of the American side, refusing to stop the suffering of the residents of the Rukban camp, and putting forward impossible demands. The United States is clearly an occupying force that has seized the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, where the Rukban camp is located, and as you know, international humanitarian law obliges such an occupying force to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to the civilian population of the camp.

Interaction and cooperation with our friends have shown the effectiveness of activities to provide humanitarian assistance at the highest level. To date, thanks to the efforts of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the Supreme Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to the SAR, we have been able to ensure the return of more than one-third of the camp’s population to their homes in the provinces of Homs, Rif-Damascus and others.

It is noteworthy that this process was carried out only through the Syrian-Russian efforts, without the participation of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or any other UN bodies. It should be noted that we have given permission to UN representatives to visit temporary stay centres organized for refugees from Rukban. The level of services provided by the government in these centres to refugees was highly appreciated by UN representatives, in particular, representatives of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

I would also like to note that the issue of the repatriation of refugees and IDPs has been the object of political manoeuvre and blackmail of Western countries or so-called donor countries, who allegedly express their concern about the speedy return of refugees back to their cities and villages. However, when this process became a reality, these countries began to spread intimidating propaganda among refugees in order to sow fear of returning to their homeland. The declaration adopted at the recent donor conference in Brussels set forth a number of impracticable political conditions for the return of refugees, which Syria has not accepted and will never accept. According to this declaration, most of the funds were allocated to provide financial assistance to refugees in neighbouring and other countries hosting Syrian refugees, which we consider an obstacle to the return of Syrian citizens back to their homeland.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the Syrian government expresses its readiness to use all available opportunities to provide all the necessary conditions for the return of the remaining part of the Rukban camp population to their cities and villages, namely: organizing their transportation, equipping temporary stay centres, working with international organizations to provide temporary stay centres with food supplies, medication, personal hygiene products and other basic necessities. In addition, we are ready to assist those in need to get personal documents. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Migrants constantly cooperates closely with other ministries and departments to achieve their goals.

Speech by Mr. Hussein Makhlouf

I ask the head of the joint coordination headquarters of Russia - the head of the National Centre for State Defence Control, Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev to report on the main activities of the joint coordination headquarters of Russia to assist in returning Syrian refugees to their homes and restoring peaceful life in Syria.

Report by Colonel General M. Mizintsev

Russia's joint coordination headquarters continues to actively conduct large-scale activities at all international sites, including in New York, Washington, Geneva and Amman in order to implement the initiative to return Syrian citizens to their homeland and assist the Syrian government in creating decent living conditions in the republic.

In addition, the problems of restoring civilian life in Syria, as well as the critical situation prevailing in the territories under the control of the United States and its allies in the Rukban and al-Hol refugee camps are constantly being brought to the world community.

The most pressing issues of concern on this topic were discussed at the 8th Moscow Conference on International Security, as well as at the 12th International Meeting on Syria in Nur-Sultan.

As a result of this activity, more and more foreign countries and international organizations are joining the process of reviving Syria, helping with real deeds in the repatriation of refugees and restoring the country from devastation.

We note the increasingly active interaction of representatives of the International Committee of Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent with the Syrian authorities and the Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring in addressing humanitarian problems in the territory controlled by the Syrian government. Assistance is also provided through the specialized structures of the United Nations and their partners from foreign and local non-governmental organizations.

The consistent joint work of the Syrian leadership with the Lebanese and Jordanian authorities has brought lasting positive results in the repatriation of citizens.

Thanks to the coordinated efforts, more than 256,000 citizens of the Syrian Arab Republic have already returned to their homeland through checkpoints on the Jordan-Syrian and Lebanese-Syrian borders. Recently, the flow of returnees has increased and is already about 2,000 people a day.

The range of problems that the Syrian government faces on a daily basis is extremely wide.

In these circumstances, the position chosen by the United States and its allies, which aggravates the difficult situation in the post-war country, can cause confusion. The political conditions for the expansion of humanitarian assistance, as well as the anti-Syrian sanctions imposed by them, impede the establishment of peaceful life in the Republic.

Nor does the campaign by the United States leadership and its allies to discredit the legitimate authorities in Syria contribute to the stabilization of the situation in the country. I agree with the assessments of the colleagues from the Syrian Arab Republic about the role of non-governmental organizations in intimidating refugees.

In the areas controlled by the United States of America, all fundamental rules of international law are flouted. The situation in the Rukban and al-Hol refugee camps remains critical. Artificially creating inhuman conditions in refugee camps in the illegally occupied territories of Syria, the United States of America is creating a base for the return of terrorist organizations in order to maintain instability in the country and the region.

The unbearable living conditions in these "concentration camps", created by the United States of America to justify its presence in Syria, can be judged by the physical and moral condition of Syrian citizens who managed to leave the Rukban camp.

We draw the attention of the international community that further retention by the United States and its allies of the Syrian territories, the Rukban and al-Hol refugee camps only delays the end of the conflict in Syria, aggravates the criminal situation, hampers the repatriation of Syrians.

The decision of refugees to refrain from moving to their homeland is strongly influenced by the difficult economic situation in the country, mainly due to the imposing new sanctions against the Syrian Arab Republic. Blocking the supply of petroleum products triggered a fuel crisis, which led to higher prices for goods and services.

We need decisive steps to reduce the sanctions pressure on the Syrian government and to intensify the country's economic recovery.

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

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation continues the systematic and meticulous work on settling the Syrian crisis. Russian representatives are actively using all available international instruments to resolve the Syrian crisis on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions.

The Russian Federation remains committed to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We emphasize that these principles are subject to universal adherence and should not be undermined. We believe that the Syrian conflict does not have a military solution and reaffirm our readiness to help advance the political process led and implemented by the Syrians themselves with the assistance of the UN in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi.

In the political field within the Astana format, in cooperation with the Syrian parties and in coordination with the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, G. Pedersen, who maintains a regular dialogue with Damascus and the opposition, we continue to increase efforts for the early launch and sustainable functioning of the Constitutional Committee. The constructive interaction between official Damascus and the UN Special Envoy inspires a certain optimism.

The Russian efforts are focused on the problem of the return of Syria to the “Arab family”. We believe that the normalization in and around Syria will contribute not only to the restoration of inter-Arab harmony but also to the improvement of the regional situation, the strengthening of stability and security in the entire Middle East. We are confident that the recent decision of the guarantor countries of the Astana format to invite Iraq and Lebanon to join this mechanism as observers will contribute to the stabilization of Syrian-Arab relations and the restoration of Syria's membership in the League of Arab States. In this regard, we note the gradual establishment of relations between Syria and the outside world broken during the years of the conflict. Thus, the Emirates Airline (Dubai) announced their readiness to resume flights to Damascus. In turn, the private Syrian airline Cham Wings announced the launch of regular air service on the route Damascus-Muscat-Damascus.

Russia remains a consistent supporter of the need to continue providing humanitarian assistance to all Syrians throughout Syria without any preconditions. Once again, we urge the international community, especially the UN and its humanitarian agencies, to increase assistance to Syria, in accordance with international humanitarian law, including through building up humanitarian supplies, implementing early recovery projects, including basic infrastructure - water and electricity, schools, hospitals. We emphasize the need to create the conditions and facilitate the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their places of residence in Syria, ensuring their right to repatriation.

The fates of people staying in the Rukban and al-Hol camps located in territories outside the control of the Syrian authorities, where the dire humanitarian situation is prevailing, are of particular concern. We expect an active exit of refugees from the Rukban to the territories controlled by the Syrian government to resume in the near future. We hope that the mentioned camps will soon be closed, and their inhabitants will be able to return to their homes.

Speech by Mr. Hussein Makhlouf

Head of the Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring Major General Viktor Kupchishin is going to report on the implementation of plans for the evacuation of refugees from the occupied zone of al-Tanf.

Report of Major General V.Kupchishin

The refugee checkpoints continue to operate in normal mode.

Since the beginning of May, 14,539 refugees have returned from Lebanon through the checkpoints Jaydet Yabus and Tell-Kalah, from Jordan through the checkpoint Nasib - 34,436 people.

It is reported that over 6,300 Syrians have returned back to:

- Eastern Ghouta - 288 people;

- 84 people via al-Salhiyah CP;

- 5,949 people via the Jleb checkpoint (Homs province).

In order to address the issue of the evacuation of refugees from the Rukban camp, the Russian Reconciliation Center has planned and conducted more than 100 different events.

As of June 10, 2019, 13,539 refugees have left the Rukban camp, including 2,842 men, 3,817 women and 6,880 children.

In recent weeks, there has been a decrease in the intensity of people leaving the camp. The main reasons are the lack of opportunities for camp residents to pay for fuel to move to the Jleb checkpoint through the 55-kilometre Al-Tanf zone due to the progressive fuel crisis and to pay a large amount of money to the militants controlled by the US side, which has now increased to 1,000 USD per person.

An additional checkpoint (Suran) was opened at 9:00 a.m. on May 27, 2019 for the evacuation of internally displaced persons from the Idlib de-escalation zone.  Its capacity is 1,000 people and 50 vehicles per day. Over the past day, no refugees have left the Idlib de-escalation zone via the Suran CP.

Some 40-80 thousand internally displaced persons are expected to leave the de-escalation zone. In the provinces of Hama, Homs and Deir-Ez-Zor, the necessary number of places have already been prepared for them in the temporary accommodation areas.

Since the beginning of May, the Russian side organized and conducted 29 humanitarian and charitable actions in 17 localities, distributing about fifty tons of humanitarian and more than ten tons of charitable goods.

In this period 221 Syrians have been provided with medical assistance.

In total, 105,206 Syrians were provided with medical assistance by Russian military medics.

We have no issues of concern.

Report by Governor of Homs province Talal al-Barazi

The administration of Homs province since the beginning of the liberation of its areas by the Syrian troops has been active in the framework of the Syrian government’s program aimed at returning all residents to their villages and cities that the Syrians had to flee because of the actions of terrorist groups. All appropriate measures are taken to ensure the necessary conditions for their safe return.

To date, the provincial authorities have welcomed 17,930 citizens and are implementing a set of measures in the fields of health, education, social welfare of refugees, measures to restore the infrastructure and socially important facilities.

At present water and power supply facilities have been recovered in most settlements.

As part of the restoration of social facilities and infrastructure, the main efforts are focused on the reconstruction of schools. Moreover, 1,289 of them are fully functioning today, the number of students has reached 365,000.

Another 44 schools, 24 medical centres, five bakeries and 4,590 dwellings are being recovered.

The most important task of local governments was to provide all the necessary for Syrians arriving from Rukban. As of June 10, 2019, 13,411 former prisoners of the Rukban camp, including 3,456 men, 3,909 women and 6,046 children have been received by the provincial authorities.

Currently, 12,789 refugees received new ID documents in a simplified procedure and returned to the places of residence they chose.

Most of the people who left the Rukban camp are residents of rural settlements. They got jobs in the field of grain cultivation, vegetable production and husbandry.

The Ministry of Education provided all school-age children with the opportunity to continue their studies. In the new academic year, 2,417 boys and 2,189 girls will continue their education.

The provincial government is doing everything possible so that families as soon as possible forget all the horrors endured in the Rukban camp.

According to the instructions of the government of the country, the administration of Homs province continues to make the necessary preparations to receive all citizens wishing to return to their homes and is ready to provide the necessary assistance and support.

Speech by Mr. Hussein Makhlouf.

It is necessary to continue active and coordinated work on the early return of Syrian citizens and the revival of the country. I would like to especially thank our Russian military friends for their support and for their invaluable help in restoring civilian life in Syria and repatriation of Syrian refugees.

© Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation