Russia urges help for Syria refugees to return

Russia urges help for Syria refugees to return

Russia’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev (R), pictured in May 2017, has called on the international community to “contribute to the process” of Syrian refugees returning to Syria

Russia’s Syria envoy on Thursday urged the international community to help Syrian refugees go back to their war-torn country.

During a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Alexander Lavrentiev called on “the international community to contribute to the process” of their return, urging “all countries” to help.

Russia has been a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict, which has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions.

Moscow’s 2015 military intervention in support of Assad was widely seen as a turning point in the war.

Lavrentiev, on a regional tour with stops in Damascus, Beirut and Amman, said the Syrian government was “not able to provide significant financial support” to help refugees go home.

“The key is not to politicise this very important humanitarian issue because without international aid, it will be very difficult to create favourable conditions for those who wish to return,” the envoy added.

Earlier this month, Russia presented the US with plans for the coordinated return of refugees to Syria.

The proposal includes the establishment of working groups in both Lebanon and Jordan, involving US and Russian officials.

The United Nations refuge agency said it has “not been involved in these discussions”, and has repeatedly warned against forced and hasty returns.

Lebanon says it currently hosts some 1.5 million Syrian refugees, of whom fewer than one million are registered with the UN.

In Jordan there are 650,000 UN-registered Syrian refugees, but the government estimates it hosts some 1.3 million and has repeatedly called for more international support.

The war in Syria began in 2011 with a brutal government crackdown on protesters before morphing into a complex conflict involving regional forces, foreign powers and jihadist groups.


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