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22.04.2019 (13:19)

Third joint coordination meeting on closure of Rukban camp takes place in Moscow

Colonel General Misintsev M.E.:

Good morning! Esteemed colleagues!

Today, within the framework of Russian and Syrian joint coordination committees’ session we carry out the third coordination meeting on closure of the Rukban camp.

Along with the permanent participants of Russian and Syrian joint coordination committees’ session, today’s coordination meeting, as in the two previous coordination meetings at the checkpoint Jleb is attended present the UN representatives: UNHCR, OCHA, as well as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent representatives.

Given the crucial role of the United States in disbanding the Rukban camp, we also sent an invitation to the US Embassy in Moscow to today’s coordination meeting. Unfortunately, the US officials refuse to attend this event of utmost importance.

They are still insisting, that the Rukban camp problem should be solved in Amman in the trilateral format consultation of Russian, US and Jordanian representatives. We consider this kind of work to be one-sided and inefficient if it does not involve UN representatives and first and foremost Syrian government.

The USA takes an absurd position on the whole. On the one hand, they are allegedly looking for a direct dialogue with Russia on the Rukban problem. In this regard we give them opportunities of the Moscow platform with a high status and expert participation providing for joint work of all parties concerned – but they turn down our proposal.

The mentioned US actions evidence that they intentionally deliberately delay the settlement of the Rukban issue, because the US side obviously uses it to cover its illegal presence in the Syrian territory, i.e. in the 55-kilometer Al-Tanf zone.

Esteemed colleagues! Let us get to work.

Before speaking directly on the main topic of our meeting, I will introduce the main results of the Russian and Syrian Joint coordination committees.

Over 1,716,738 Syrian citizens have returned back to their homes, including over 1,289,113 internally displaced persons and more than four 427,625 refugees from abroad.

Since the beginning of the month, more than 29,324 Syrian citizens have returned to the pre-war places of residence, including more than 5,444 people from different areas across the country and more than 23,880 from foreign countries.

The amount of work aimed at infrastructure and social facilities rehabilitation in Syria is expanding. In total, in the various areas of the country were repaired and put into operation:

5,472 residential buildings,

305 medical facilities

1,508 educational facilities,

317 water supply facilities,

331 bakeries,

1,092 electrical substations,

14,299 industrial enterprises.

The above mentioned figures clearly show the progress in repatriation of Syrian citizens and recovery of peaceful life in the Syrian Arab Republic. The number of citizens arriving in the country continues to increase.

Despite the obvious success in recovering Syria, peaceful life in the country still experiences serious difficulties. The US and its coalition allies continue to destabilize the republic, demonstrating disregard for international law standards in the territories under their control.

A clear case in point is the US-occupied 55-kilometer zone around al-Tanf, where US-controlled and heavily armed fighters walk around and hamper refugees’ attempts to flee the Rukban camp - this epicenter of violence and crime on the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Thanks to our joint work with the Syrian colleagues aimed at bringing the information to the world community about the plight of the Rukban camp inhabitants, the situation has broken free from deadlock.

Since March 23, in total 4,345 people have been evacuated from the camp, with over 2,362 of them accommodated in Homs province temporary shelters. The rest have already returned to the places of residence, which they had chosen.

Syrian government fulfills guarantees of voluntary, secure and dignified repatriation of Syrian citizens. All Syrians who left the Rukban camp were provided with medical assistance, the bare necessities and food. Issues concerning recovery of documents and employment are addressed promptly. Children started to go to school.

Within the working visit by Mr Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to the Syrian Arab Republic, the Syrian authorities gave him an opportunity to talk directly with the Syrian citizens, who had returned to Homs and Hama provinces and to make sure that they live in decent conditions.

However, despite the measures taken to rescue the residents from the Rukban camp, Syrian citizens are leaving the camp extremely slowly, and the humanitarian situation in the camp continues to worsen rapidly. With a great regret, we have to highlight, that UN humanitarian agencies in fact were set aside from Russian and Syrian work on closure of the Rukban camp and evacuation of its inhabitants.

Over 40,000 refugees with about 80% of women and children are staying in terrifying conditions of unsanitary, deceases, and are suffering daily violence by the fighters.

The responsibility for the worst humanitarian situation in the camp lies fully with the command of the American troops in the al-Tanf zone who prevents Syrian bus convoys from getting to the Rukban camp in order to rescue their citizens.

Repatriation process from this ‘ghetto’ seemed to have been successfully established. In spite of the US arguments, that previously tried to convince the whole world of the Syrian authority’s incapacity to provide the necessary conditions for their citizens, Syrians started to massively flee the Rukban camp. People could see for themselves that the conditions created by the Syrian government are incomparable with the shabby tents next to the cemeteries and dumps, where they had to endure a miserable life in constant fear for their lives.

Apparently, the US leadership was not ready for the events as they unfold. Supporting the Rukban refugee repatriation only with rhetoric, indeed the USA started to undertake dubious measures that do not suit the state aspiring to be the global leader.

As we got to know, US-controlled armed groups led by Magavir al-Saur with the direct support of the US troops in response to the refugee mass exodus formed so-called local police in Rukban camp and developed a prohibition list for its inhabitants, and severe penalties for violating it. On the Rukban territory there is a traffic ban and prohibition to leave the camp through any exits except the central one.

How should we understand this? It is totally confusing: speaking in favor of democracy and humanism, but in reality – following the long forgotten concentration camp policy.

The US satellites, so called European democracies, also keep the pace. They activated pressure on the authorities of the Syria’s neighboring countries and explicitly make it clear to them that it is no recommended to work on the Rukban issue directly with the Syrian government. It means that they deliberately hinder direct dialogue with the Syrian government as well as repatriation of Syrian refugees.

Considering these conditions, the principal and consistent UN position is important more than ever in order to assess actions of the USA and its allies in the region and to influence the US leadership in order to close the Rukban camp as soon as possible and eliminate the 55-kilometer Al-Tanf zone.

Dear colleagues! Let us proceed with reports.

I would like to ask Igor Tsarikov, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, to report on the repatriation progress in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Report of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative:

On April 5-7, 2019 Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov made a working visit to Egypt and Jordan. Leaders of these countries received the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs. He also held talks with his Arab counterparts.

When discussing the Syrian situation, the parties stressed that there is no other alternative political settlement but the one based on the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which took place in Sochi in January last year. On the basis of these decisions, the work is underway to establish the Constitutional Committee. There is a hope that in the near future our UN colleagues will finally be able to contribute to the functioning of the Constitutional Committee, which is to launch its work in Geneva. They also discussed efforts to return Syria to the “Arab family”. The Minister emphasized the progress in stabilizing situation around Syria.

In this regard, it should be recalled that a number of diplomatic missions from Arab countries are already operating in Damascus. Air communication between Syria and Tunisia has been resumed; trade and economic ties are being restored with Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. In March this year, the Syrian parliamentary delegation participated in the regular conference of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union in Amman.

We believe that the normalization inside and around Syria will contribute not only to the restoration of inter-Arab consent but also to improvement of regional situation and strengthening stability and security in the Middle East.

However, despite the overall positive momentum, there are some spheres, where the catastrophic situation prevails. First of all, there is problem with the IDP camps. Thus, the Al-Hol camp in the province of sl-Hasakah is overcrowded - the total number of refugees living in its territory exceeds 73,000 people. At the same time, according to the UN, there is a serious shortage of water and food, medical personnel, medicines and equipment in the camp, as well as there is lack of basic hygiene means. As a result, infectious diseases are actively spreading, and sanitary-epidemiological situation is rapidly deteriorating.

According to UN experts, 27 million USD are required to provide emergency assistance to inhabitants of the Al-Hol camp. However, the American party, along with its allies controlling the territory where camp is located, shows inability to respond adequately to the current plight of the Syrian citizens. The inaction of the international community causes confusion and regret, especially considering those triumphal statements following the results of the Brussels III Conference, where donors promised to allocate a record amount of 7 billion USD.

The similar situation prevails in the Rukban camp. The UN officials who visited it admit that the overwhelming number of refugees living there want to return home and most of them expressed their desire to get back to the areas controlled by the Syrian government. The Syrians are actually living in unbearable conditions. They should be given an opportunity to freely leave the camp.

In this regard, we once again emphasize that the simplest and most effective solution would be seizing up illegal occupation of Syrian territory by the United States and earliest possible closure of the camp. This information was repeatedly reported to the American party through various diplomatic channels and with involvement of international platforms. We hope that the USA will finally reconsider its position and will take more active part not only within the Russian-Jordanian operational headquarters on the refugees in Amman, but also join work on developing measures aimed at closure of the Rukban camp.

Colonel General Misintsev M.E.:

Igor Viktorovich, thank you for the detailed report. It is difficult to overestimate the efforts of the diplomatic corps in solving the problem of the Rukban camp, creating the Syrian Constitutional Committee and contribution to restore Syria’s full membership in the League of Arab States. I wish you success in this work.

I would like to ask the Head of the Syrian Joint Coordination committee – Minister of Local Administration Mr. Hussein Makhlouf to report on the measures taken for repatriation of Syrian refugees.

Mr. Hussein Makhlouf report:

In order to maintain conditions, favorable for returnees and internally displaced persons the Syrian government is doing tremendous work to improve the regulatory legal framework.

Thanks to the measures taken by the government concerning Syrian citizens who left the country through illegal border crossings, the refugees who decided to return can apply to re-issue their lost documents in the simplified procedure. The requests of these citizens are processed in the way established by the law.

In the field of ownership, after amending Law No. 10, the deadline for submitting applications or title documents was extended from one month to one year.

As for the compulsory military service, there is six-month deferments from the draft, so they could organize decent life for their families.

Within the framework of the President of the Syrian Arab Republic decree, the authorities continue to work on granting amnesty for persons, who avoided military service, including refugees and former members of illegal armed groups. Over 57,000 people have already been granted amnesty.

Talking about the results of the Syrian joint coordination committee work on refugee repatriation from the Rukban camp, it must be stated that despite the American leadership’s disregard for our initiatives to close this “death camp”, the government and local authorities of Syria fully comply with their obligations given to refugees that are returning to their chosen places of residence.

The joint work with our Russian colleagues has already allowed almost 400,000 refugees to return home directly from the Rukban camp.

It is important to stress that not only single citizens but families - elderly people, adults and children – managed to make their way back home. They received full medical care and vaccination. Much credit for this goes to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

The second important point - children finally started to go to school, they were deprived of that for many years staying in the camps controlled by the United States and armed gangs. The Syrian government is clearly aware that without education for children, there will be no future for the nation, therefore, the younger generation gets priority attention.

In Homs province, the jobs have been created primarily in the agricultural sector, for the Rukban camp refugees. In spite of the difficulties, it can be stated that labour and living conditions for the returnees are incomparable with those in the Rukban camp. The Homs authorities, who are interested in the earliest possible establishment of peaceful life, provide all possible assistance for the returning Syrians.

We do not intend to stop here and strive to convince our citizens of returning to a peaceful life as soon as possible in places of their pre-war residence. The best way to do this is to listen to the testimonies of compatriots who have already taken the opportunity to live in human conditions at home and work for the benefit of their country.  In order to show this, the Syrian mass media, together with the administration of Homs province and the National Reconciliation Committee are preparing a series of reports on the fate of ordinary Syrians who have left the Rukban camp. These reports will demonstrate to those still doubting citizens and to the whole world that the work on Syria’s revival is being done not in words but in deeds

Colonel General Misintsev M.E.:

Esteemed Mr Makhluf, thank you for the detailed report. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Syrian government is doing everything possible to revive the country. There are still many large-scale tasks to solve on the way to peaceful life. I wish you success in achieving your goals!

I would like to ask Major General Viktor Kupchishin. the Head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring, to report on plans for the refugee’s repatriation from the occupied al-Tanf zone.

Major General Kupchishin V.M. report:

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen!

Let me personally thank all the present participants for facilitating the organization of two coordination meetings at the Jleb checkpoint on the Rukban refugees’ repatriation and the closure of the Rukban camp, as well as for practical assistance in implementation of decisions taken at the end of the coordination meetings.

Despite the negative attitude of the International Antiterrorist Coalition leadership in the Al-Tanf zone to the Rukban refugees’ repatriation, the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides together with the Syrian governmental bodies managed to reverse this situation and to start evacuation of the refugees for the first time in four years since the Rukban camp started to exist.

For this purpose, the Russian Centre for Reconciliation planned and carried out more than 100 different arrangements aimed at the solution of the Rukban camp issues.

The main events included:

two coordination meetings at the Jleb checkpoint involving Rukban community leaders, Syrian authorities and international public organizations. As the result of these meetings specific decisions were taken to implement the refugee repatriation, Russian party managed to earn high confidence by the Rukban community leaders;

bilateral meetings with the leadership of National Security Bureau, Ministry of Local Administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, governors of Homs and Rif-Damascus provinces, President of National Reconciliation Committee, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, ICRC and SARC representatives;

daily monitoring over temporary accommodation centres and Jleb checkpoint.

As for April 22, 2019, 4,345 refugees have left the Rukban camp, including 940 men, 1,136 women and 2,269 children.

Nevertheless, it is only a small part of the camp refugees - another tens of thousands of Syrians, held hostage by American despotism, are still far from their home.

All refugees who managed to leave the Rukban camp are accommodated in the specially prepared temporary centres in Homs province: Mahmud Usman, Al Baraa Bin Maliq, Abdurakhman Shatur, Mahad Itat Medresa. They receive three meals a day for free, medical care and everything they need.

At present, 1,956 refugees have received new identity documents and returned back to their homes.

They all were provided with jobs, their children started to go to schools, and families began to forget all the horrors of the Rukban camp.

As you could see, the Syrian side not in words, but in deeds demonstrates its capability to receive compatriots from the Rukban camp.

To date, the most urgent problem in respect of the mass Rukban refugee repatriation is the reluctance of the American side to accept unequivocal decision to close the camp. The US representatives repeatedly declined our invitations to previous coordination meetings in order to discuss and make an informed decision, declaring their "readiness to address the Rukban problem only at the diplomatic level and under the UN auspices."

The working meetings in Amman, held in the trilateral format by diplomats from Russia, USA and Jordan in April this year, show that the State Department representatives are looking for various pretexts that cannot address repatriation of the Rukban camp refugees and especially closure of the Rukban camp. Hiding behind the care for Syrians, the Americans are striving to maintain the human shield in the form of the Rukban camp for further illegal occupation of the Al-Tanf zone.

I hope that the outcome of today's meeting will transform into the decisions that will mark a decisive end to the matters of refugee repatriation from the Rukban and its closure, and will be used for the benefit of the Syrian people.

Thank you for your attention.

Colonel General Misintsev M.E.:

Together we have achieved great success in refugee repatriation and recovering of peaceful life in Syria.

Statistics on returning refugees and IDPs speak for itself. As we daily report in the Bulletin of the Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring, about 1,000 refugees return to Syria every day from Jordan and Lebanon, which objectively shows the effectiveness of the measures taken by the Syrian authorities.

I would ask all the officials to maintain the given pace in order to ensure the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Syrians to their homes, as well as the soonest restoration of peaceful life throughout the Syrian Arab Republic. It is very important to boost the work to bring reliable information to the international community and Syrian citizens living abroad on the progress of the Syria’s revival.

Esteemed colleagues, our meeting is over. The urgent joint statement of the Russian and Syrian Joint Coordination Committees on the results of the third coordination meeting on the Rukban camp disbandment will be published in the mass media in Russian, English and Arabic within two hours after the end of the session.

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