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West’s sanctions, occupation hinder Syria recovery, return of refugees: Moscow, Damascus

A view of the Russian-Syrian conference for the return of refugees in session, in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on July 26, 2021. (By AFP)

Moscow and Damascus have slammed the Western sanctions against Syria and the military occupation of the Arab country as the main obstacles to the return of the displaced to their homeland and the country’s recovery from a decade-long campaign of militancy and destruction sponsored by the West.

In a joint statement released on Monday, the Russian and Syrian coordination headquarters for the return of refugees said that many Syrians postpone their return because Western states have taken a “destructive position” on the issue by trying to convince the world community that Syria has not yet created conditions for the return of the displaced people.

The statement was published after a Russian-Syrian conference on the return of refugees in Damascus.

“The joint meeting of the coordination headquarters discussed key problems hampering the Syrian people to return to normal life. First, it is the Western nations’ policy of sanctions pressure on Damascus. The anti-Syrian restrictions that are extended every year slow down the post-war revival of the country where people cannot satisfy their basic demands,” the statement read.

The second problem, it added, is the illegitimate presence of foreign military contingents on Syrian soil, which impedes stabilization in the occupied areas.

It criticized the world community for politicizing the issue of aid delivery to Syria.

“Third, this is out-and-out politicization of a purely humanitarian issue, which implies discrimination aimed at Damascus-controlled areas as far as humanitarian assistance goes, the refusal to help restore social infrastructure and facilitate the return of refugees, letting terrorists off the hook, plans to preserve and expand the cross-border mechanism, which violates the norms of international humanitarian law and the ruling principles of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 46/182,” it said.

According to the statement, all these problems pose an obstacle to the return of refugees to Syria and the restoration of normal life there.

“We are convinced that lasting security and stability in Syria and in the entire region of the Middle East are possible only on the basis of preserving Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it added. “We urge the world community, the United Nations humanitarian structures and those countries that give shelter to Syrian refugees to undertake efforts to facilitate the return of Syrian nationals and take part in effective humanitarian assistance to Syria.”

The US and its European Union allies have imposed tough sanctions on Syria, after the militant groups that they long sponsored in their attempts to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad failed to achieve their goals on the battle ground.

Syrian government forces, backed by Iran and Russia, have managed to win back control of almost all regions from militants.

Speaking at the conference, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said that the refugee return case is still subjected to politicization and pressure, complaining about the catastrophic impacts of unilateral coercive measures as well as the US, Turkish and Israeli occupation of Syrian territories.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad (L) and Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev chat as they attend a Russian-Syrian conference for the return of refugees, in Syria's capital Damascus, on July 26, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The Damascus government continues to facilitate and support the return of its citizens and prepare suitable livelihood conditions for them in cooperation with friendly countries such as Russia, Iran and China, in addition to the UN and other international organizations, he said.

Moreover, Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev said the priority today is to return Syria to normal life, rebuild its economy and create appropriate conditions for the return of those displaced.

He also referred to the destructive effects of the illegitimate restrictive measures imposed on Syria and the need to put an end to the collective punishment of the Syrian people just because they stand with their country, calling on all members of the international community to take effective steps in order to solve the problem of Syrian refugees.

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