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US needs Rukban refugee camp to justify military presence in Syria, Lavrov says

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov takes part in a joint press conference with Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Hamad Al Sabah (not seen) in Kuwait City on March 6, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the United States needs Rukban refugee camp in southern Syria and near the border with Jordan, where  thousands of internally displaced people are stranded, in order to justify its illegitimate military presence in the crisis-hit Arab country.

“The fact that people are not allowed to leave [the camp] and are held hostage makes one suggest that the US needs this camp to continue justifying its illegitimate presence there,” Lavrov said at a joint press conference with Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Hamad Al Sabah in Kuwait City on Wednesday.

He added, “This is in line with the US policy aimed at creating something like a quasi-state on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. It does not want these territories to get back under the control of Syria’s legitimate authorities.”

“We will insist that these people are no longer held in the camp against their will,” Lavrov pointed out.

The remarks came only a day after Russia’s Defense Ministry said Russian satellites had found a cemetery with 300 graves immediately outside Rukban camp’s fence.

“US forces prevent refugees from exiting the camp, while militants are forcibly holding them inside, demanding large sums of money in US dollars to let them out.

“At the same time, the UN data show that more than 35,000 Syrians want to return to the territory controlled by the Syrian government, including 28,000 to the province of Homs, 2,800 to the province of Dayr al-Zawr, 1,600 to the provinces of Rif Damashq and Hama and 1,200 to the province of Aleppo,” the ministry said.

On February 28, a Syrian official held US military forces and their allied militants responsible for the humanitarian crisis affecting thousands of internally displaced people at Rukban refugee camp.

“The responsibility for the humanitarian crisis of our people at al-Rukban camp falls solely on US occupation forces and their stooges, as they have been preventing civilians’ departure by means of force and threats. This is while safe corridors have been opened for those who are willing to leave the camp,” an unnamed official at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates was quoted by official SANA news agency as saying on Thursday.

He stressed that the Damascus government is prepared to take responsibility for securing a safe and decent return of displaced people to their hometowns.

The UN says about 45,000 people, mostly women and children, are trapped inside Rukban, where conditions are desperate. This is while Geneva-based international aid agency Doctors Without Borders has put the number there at some 60,000.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on February 25 that US forces were unlawfully deployed to al-Tanf region in southern Syria, and were training terrorists, who carry out acts of terror across Syria and prevent the return of displaced people in Rukban to their hometowns.

Last October, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said people in Rukban had been without access to food and humanitarian aid for several months, highlighting that the tough situation was further complicated with a closed border by Jordan.

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