Russia and US eyeing joint plan for return of Syrian refugees

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed resolving the crisis in Syria and how to return refugees who fled the war-torn country. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed, “There was a discussion between President Trump and President Putin about the resolution in Syria and how we might get the refugees back. It’s important to the world that at the right time through a voluntary mechanism these refugees are able to return to their home country.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said on July 20 that it sent Washington a proposal for drawing up a joint action plan to bring Syrian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and elsewhere back to the places where they lived before Syria’s civil war broke out in 2011 — a goal repeatedly espoused by Trump since taking office.

The Russian ministry estimates that over 1.7 million Syrian refugees would be able to return to Syria in the near future, including an estimated 890,000 refugees from Lebanon, 300,000 from Turkey, and 200,000 who are living in European Union countries.

Washington and Moscow back opposing sides in the Syrian war, with Russia’s intervention on the side of President Bashar al-Assad having helped turn the conflict in favor of the government, particularly in the last year. So the proposed joint plan of action on refugees is remarkable in that it appears to presuppose that the war is coming to an end without a negotiated settlement and the country is now in a resettlement and reconstruction phase — a view often espoused by Russia but not previously openly endorsed by Washington.

[Reuters, AFP, and Interfax]

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