Moscow suggests cooperation with US on return of Syrian refugees

MOSCOW: Moscow has put forward plans to Washington to cooperate on the safe return of refugees to Syria, the Russian ministry of defence said Friday, days after a summit between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

“Specific proposals on how work could be organised to ensure that refugees can return home have been sent to the American side,” senior ministry official, General Mikhail Mizintsev, said in a statement.

The proposals “take into account the agreements reached by the Russian and American presidents during their meeting in Helsinki” on Monday, he said. Trump and Putin announced they had reached several points of agreement following their first bilateral summit in the Finnish capital, but did not provide further details. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Friday this had been part of the presidents’ talks.

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“There was a discussion between President Trump and President Putin about the resolution in Syria and how we might get the refugees back,” Pompeo told reporters at UN headquarters in New York. “It’s important that at the right time, through voluntary mechanism, the refugees are able to return to their home country. “There is lots of work to do to figure out how to implement that, but the United States certainly wants to be part of helping to achieve that resolution in Syria.”

Washington and Moscow back opposing sides in the Syrian war, with Russia’s intervention in 2015 on the side of Bashar Al-Assad’s government widely seen as a turning point in the multi-front conflict. Mizintsev said the Russia had proposed the establishment of working groups in Lebanon and Jordan, where many refugees have fled, backed by local authorities as well as Moscow and Washington. Russia has also suggested forming a joint group with the US to finance the reconstruction of Syrian infrastructure, he added. “The Russian proposals are currently being examined by the US side,” he said.

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