Syrian regime calls for refugees to 'return home'
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has called on exiled nationals to return home, as debate rages on the status of millions of Syrian refugees outside the country.
Muallem said that Syrians living abroad would be "welcomed" home after a downscale in violence in war-torn country.
The foreign minister said the regime has "renewed the invitation of the government to Syrian refugees living in neighbouring countries to return to their country" in comments published in state media.
There are some 5 million Syrian refugees living in squalid camps in neighbouring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Others have reached Europe along dangerous migrant routes, or joined their families in the Gulf and elsewhere.
Despite the dire conditions they live under it is unlikely that many will accept the offer to return given the deep-set fears about arrest, torture and murder in Syria.
Regime intelligence holds all Syrians in suspicion and operates an archipelago of torture chambers across the country for alleged opponents.
Damascus occasionally issues statements asking exiled Syrians to return home - usually at political opportune times, or for financial gain - and many have pointed to the cynical timing of the latest request.
Days earlier, President Donald Trump named Syrians in a list of nationalities banned from entering the US.
Trump also froze the flow of refugees to the US, while the White House said Syrian Christians would be given priority over Muslims.
The decision has been met widespread outrage, although most Arab countries unaffected by the ban have remained quiet on the issue.
In contrast, Yemen's rebel authority, Iran and Iraq - countries included in the US ban - have all spoken out or issued their own retaliatory freeze on visas for Americans.
They are also allies of Bashar al-Assad's regime, and part of a regional axis that opposed Washington or its regional allies, including Saudi Arabia.