Moscow suggests cooperation with US on returning Syrian refugees
Moscow has put forward plans to Washington to cooperate on the return of refugees to war-torn 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 on Friday this had been part of the presidents' talks.
"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 in support of the brutal Assad regime being 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.
"The Russian proposals are currently being examined by the US side," he said.
The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.
According to independent assessments, brutal tactics pursued mainly by the Russian-backed regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians, amount to war crimes.