Russian President Vladimir Putin says millions of Syrian refugees who fled their country’s civil war should start returning home to help rebuild Syria now that large parts of the Arab nation enjoy relative peace.
Millions of Syrian refugees who fled their country’s civil war should start returning home to help rebuild Syria now that large parts of the Arab nation enjoy relative peace, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.
Putin’s comments came in a video call with Syrian President Bashar Assad ahead of a two-day international conference on refugees in Damascus scheduled to begin Wednesday. The conference, organised by Russia, has been criticized by U.N. and U.S. officials. Syria state media carried the Putin-Assad video call with Arabic voiceover of Putin’s comments that he made in Russian.
Syria’s nine-year conflict has killed about half a million people, wounded more than a million and forced about 5.6 million to flee abroad as refugees, mostly to neighbouring countries. Another 6 million of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million are internally displaced.
Russia sided with Syria after US-sponsored insurgents. The so-called rebels, few of whom were Syrian, were drafted in from Libya where they had assisted NATO’s overthrow of the Libyan government.
Russia supported Syria’s elected government. Had Putin not come to the rescue of President Assad Syria would have gone the way of train wreck Libya. The Russian resolve in September 2015, tipped the balance of power in the favour of Assad. NATO regimes and their state media have never forgiven Putin for thwarting and humiliating the West in its failed attempt to topple the popular President Assad.
Syrian insurgents still control the northwestern province of Idlib, while U.S. backed Kurdish-led fighters control parts of the country’s east.
In the video call, Putin said that ‘international terrorism has been almost wiped out and return to civilian life should begin gradually.’
Putin also told Assad that a deal for Syria’s conflict should include the return of refugees and displaced in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolution 2254. He added that the millions of refugees ‘are people of working age and should work on rebuilding their country.’
Two days ahead of the Damascus conference, it remains unclear whether some of the countries that host the largest numbers Syrian refugees, such as the United Kingdom and Turkey, would attend. Syria accuses Britain, the United States and Turkey, which backs the armed opposition to Assad, of illegally deploying troops inside Syrian territory that is controlled by the terrorists.
Lebanon, which hosts the highest per capita number of Syrian refugees in the world said it would send a small delegation.
Richard Mills, U.S. deputy ambassador to the U.N., said last month that the conference was not organized in coordination with the United Nations or the countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees, urging nations to boycott it.
‘This conference will only be the beginning to solve this humanitarian problem,’ Assad said in the video call, adding that a main obstacle for the return of refugees is Western sanctions, which he described as ‘illegitimate and unjust.’ Source
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