1 Oct 2019 11:28

Moscow, Damascus blame U.S. military for thwarted Rukban evacuation plan

MOSCOW. Oct 1 (Interfax) - The United States has disrupted the evacuation plan for the Rukban refugee camp, the heads of Russian and Syrian interagency bodies promoting the return of Syrian refugees said in a joint statement.

"The plan was thwarted due to non-fulfillment of the U.S. obligations," Russian National Defense Control Center Chief Mikhail Mizintsev and Syrian Local Administration and Environment Minister Hussein Makhlouf said.

The Rukban camp is located in the Al-Tanf deconfliction area unilaterally established by the United States in the vicinity of the U.S. Al-Tanf base on the Syrian-Jordanian border.

The Syrian government backed the UN plan of resettling the remaining Rukban population. It was planned to evacuate 2,000 to 2,500 refugees per day from Rukban within a five-day period, the statement said.

"Only 336 Syrian citizens reached the Jleb checkpoint on September 29 instead of the more than 2,000 who were due to leave the Rukban camp," it said.

The U.S. military is responsible for the failed evacuation of refugees, Mizintsev and Makhlouf said in the statement.

"On the one hand, the United States cynically approved the UN plan of evacuating the remaining Rukban population and provided certain security guarantees for officers of the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in the 55-kilometer Al-Tanf area, including the Rukban camp, but has actually done nothing to fulfill its obligations," the statement said.

Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly called for shutting down Rukban. According to the statement, about 18,000 Syrians have exited the camp.