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Russian FM says US, allies prevent return of displaced Syrians to country

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, holds a joint news conference with his Lebanese counterpart Abdullah Bou Habib in Moscow, November 22, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the United States and some of its allies have been obstructing the return of the displaced Syrians to their homeland.

“Unfortunately, a year ago, when there was a call for holding the first international conference on the return of refugees in Damascus, the United States and the European Union tried to undermine it, and this matter is totally unacceptable.” Lavrov said during a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Abdullah Bou Habib in Moscow on Monday.

“The international community is concerned with the return of the Syrian refugees to their country, but it does not provide sufficient resources for this, and it must focus its efforts on facilitating their return to their homes,” Russia's top diplomat said.

The Lebanese foreign minister, for his part, emphasized the importance of the Russian role in securing the return of displaced Syrians to their homeland. He also criticized the position of Western countries that obstruct the refugees' return.

Last week, Russia and Syria held a joint meeting of their ministerial coordination committees on the return of Syrian refugees in Damascus, with representatives of the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations in attendance.

During the conference on Tuesday, the participants discussed the implementation of initiatives to facilitate a safe, dignified and voluntary return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, as well as further steps toward the restoration of peace in the war-torn Arab country.

Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, for his part, said that the Syrian-Russian joint efforts had helped hundreds of thousands of Syrians return their homes.

In November 2020, Syria's government kicked off a two-day conference in Damascus towards facilitating the return of millions of Syrian refugees to the Arab country. President Bashar al-Assad in a televised speech said "millions of Syrians want to return." He said Western sanctions targeting the Damascus government were also "depriving the country of the simplest means for reconstruction."

Syrian and Russian high ranking officials have held a follow up conference in Damascus on refugees return, discussing measures taken by both countries in the past years for encouraging Syrians who left the war torn country to safely return back.

Senior officials in Damascus have asserted that the government continues to repair the infrastructure and restore basic services to areas liberated by the Syrian government. They say there are some obstacles in the face of refugees such as occupation of the Syrian soil by the United States and Turkey. Turkey hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees, followed by Lebanon and Jordan.

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