DAMASCUS (Dispatches) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says that his government is working continuously for the return of Syrian refugees, according to the state news agency SANA.
The Syrian leader made the remarks during his meeting with visiting Alexander Lavrentiev, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Syria.
Assad said the Syrian government is working to facilitate the return of refugees through rehabilitating the infrastructure, restoring security and stability to the regions which were liberated, and speeding up the reconciliation processes in formerly militant-held areas.
Lavrentiev, who is visiting Damascus at a time that Syria and Russia are holding a three-day conference for the return of Syrian refugees, expressed confidence that the Syrian and Russian sides will work to establish appropriate conditions and ground for the return of refugees.
He referred to his country’s continued cooperation with Syria to overcome difficulties and obstacles that may hinder such a process.
Western Sanctions Blamed
During the conference, according to the SANA report, Syrian Minister of Information Imad Sarah said that while the return of refugees is a priority for the Syrian government, the Western sanctions are hindering the process.
Moscow and Damascus both 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.
The U.S. 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 Assad failed to achieve their goals on the battle ground.