SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad has blamed the United States for hampering the return of refugees to Syria.
Assad was delivering a speech delivered via video to the opening of the two-day International Conference on the Return of Refugees in Damascus last week.
He said: ‘Today we continue working persistently for the return of every refugee who wants to return and participate in the restoration of the homeland.
‘But there are big obstacles,’ he added, citing the US sanctions and the blockades imposed by Washington and its allies, which he said are hindering the rebuilding of Syria.
Assad further said the return is not only humanitarian but a ‘national issue’.
‘They refuse to be a number in politically-motivated statistics or a pawn in the hands of the regimes that support terrorism against their homeland,’ he explained.
The Syrian leader noted that some host countries are exploiting the refugees to benefit from international aid for them.
He added that millions of refugees were being forced to stay in some host countries by ‘pressure or intimidation’ or by financial enticements.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Assad thanked Russia, which co-organised the conference, for the ‘tremendous effort’ it made to support it, despite the West’s attempts to ‘disrupt the forum’.
Last month, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem denounced the Western role in setting conditions and fabricating flimsy pretexts to halt the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, slamming the West for politicising the purely humanitarian issue and its use as a card for advancing their political agendas.
Since 2011, some 5.6 million Syrians have been forced to flee abroad as refugees, mostly to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.
At the conference Lebanese Foreign Minister Charbel Wahbeh stressed the necessity of intensifying international efforts to guarantee safe, decent and gradual return of the Syrian refugees to their homeland without preconditions after the circumstance have become appropriate for this return.
In his speech via video during the International Conference on the Return of the Syrian Refugees held at the Umayyad Palace for Conferences in Damascus, Wahbeh pointed out that following more than nine years of the crisis in Syria, Lebanon hopes that all who have been displaced will return to their homeland in order to contribute to the reconstruction and development of their country, particularly that the largest part of the Syrian areas has become secure and stable.
He indicated that the main obstacle facing a permanent solution to the issue of the Syrian refugees is the absence of the unified international will and lack of good intention.
He said that the presence of about one and a half million Syrian refugees in Lebanon contributed to aggravating the economic burdens of the Lebanese state due to the exceptional health and economic conditions that Lebanon, the world and the region are witnessing which necessitates more than ever to intensify the international efforts to guarantee a safe, honourable and gradual return of the Syrian refugees to their homeland.
Wahbeh expressed his country’s hope that the international conference on the return of refugees would contribute to finding a solution to the crisis of displacement and asylum, and it forms a basis for the return of displaced Syrians and an important stage in easing the suffering of the countries which are hosting large numbers of refugees.
For his part, Minister of Social Affairs and Tourism Ramzi Musharrafieh said that after ten years of the beginning of the crisis in Syria which led to the displacement of millions of Syrians, the conference stressed the Syrian state’s intention to work on safe and decent return for the Syrian refugees.
He indicated that Syria needs the efforts of its citizens in rebuilding what the war and terrorism have destroyed.
Ali Asghar Khaji, Senior Assistant to the Iranian Foreign Minister, stressed the necessity of the international community’s hard work to help in returning Syrian refugees to their homeland through providing the assistance and cooperation in the reconstruction process, adding that this process must be a priority to the international community far from any politicisation and without obstructing it.
In a speech during the International Conference, Khaji clarified that the flow of terrorists, backed by some states hostile to Syria has led to blood shed, destruction and displacing millions of Syrians, by force, to other countries as they live terribly miserable circumstances in the camps.
He added that after liberating the Syrian territories from terrorism, the conditions have become prepared for the refugees’ return and the international community has to effectively contribute in a real way.
He said that the terrorist groups, supported by the US forces in the al-Tanf region, have prevented the refugees in al-Rukban Camp from returning to their villages and towns.
Khaji called upon the International Community to secure the appropriate circumstances for the refugees’ return through offering humanitarian assistance and cooperation in the reconstruction process along with improving the infrastructure, referring that some states obstructed holding this international conference for political reasons instead of the effective participation in it.
He clarified that due to the importance of the reconstruction process and its direct impact on returning the refugees, Iran suggests establishing an International Fund for the reconstruction process, underlining again Iran’s firm stance regarding the necessity of finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria, in addition to supporting its people in the war on terrorism till eliminating it.
China’s ambassador to Syria, Feng Biao, stressed that the continued economic sanctions on Syria is illegitimate and they obstruct the refugees’ return to their homeland, referring that the return of refugees is significant for Syria and the international community has to contribute to reconstructing Syrians’ homeland.
Delivering his speech during the International Conference, the ambassador clarified that China is consistently committed to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and it exerted tireless efforts to push the political solution to the crisis in Syria forwards.
He added that his country pays close attention to the issue of the Syrian refugees as it provided nearly $130 million of assistance through bilateral and multinational channels and it will continue standing by the Syrians side and working with the international community along with exerting efforts towards the political solution in Syria.
‘The refugees issue is not only deep injuries for Syria, but it also constitutes huge burdens on the host countries, so solving this issue and helping the refugees return to their homeland in addition to the reconstruction are issues that represent the aspiration of all Syrians and they come along with the joint interest of the states of the region and international community,’ the ambassador said.
He added that the political solution to the crisis in Syria constitutes a significant guarantee for solving the refugees’ crisis and this solution must be Syrian and led by the Syrians themselves without any foreign interference based on Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Chinese ambassador stressed that uprooting terrorism in Syria represents a significant condition to solving the issue of refugees and the international community has to unify efforts in eliminating the terrorist groups.
- Speaker of the People’s Assembly, Hammoudeh Sabbagh, affirmed on Thursday that the relations between Syria and Russia are deeply- rooted and they are enhanced by the blood of the martyrs from the two sides within the fight against terrorism on the Syrian territories.
Sabbagh, during a meeting with Dmitry Sablin, member at the Russian State Duma, pointed out to the importance of common issues between the two friendly peoples, hoping cooperation would increase in all fields, particularly in the humanitarian field.
He added that the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Syria is still within acceptable limits despite the sanctions imposed on the Syrian people.
He also stressed the importance of holding the International Conference on the Return of the Refugees despite some obstacles set by some countries and their exploitation of the cause of the displaced Syrians due to terrorist war and its adoption as a political bargaining chip.
For his part, Sablin hailed the historic ties of cooperation and friendship that bind the two peoples, affirming the importance of the International Refugee Conference held in coordination between the two countries with the participation of 27 countries which aims to facilitate the return of the Syrians refugees who were displaced by terrorism in Syria.
He pointed out to that Syrian-Russian relations are continuously progressing, not only in the political aspect, but also in economy.