22 Mar 2019 09:48

Necessary to unite efforts to facilitate refugees' evacuation from Syria's Rukban camp - Russian center for reconciliation

DAMASCUS. March 22 (Interfax) - The head of the Russian center for reconciliation of the opposing sides in Syria, Maj. Gen. Viktor Kupchishin, has asked the United Nations to assist in the evacuation of people from the Rukban refugee camp.

"I suggest uniting our efforts to solve this problem, convene and hold a coordination meeting in Damascus that would be attended by all of the officials and organizations concerned - the UN, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the Foreign Ministry of the Syrian Arab Republic, the heads of governorates, and municipal officials," Kupchishin said when opening talks with Corinne Fleischer, the acting representative to Syria of the UN high commissioner for refugees.

Such a meeting needs to be thoroughly prepared and the invitees to it ought to include officials from the Syrian government and security services and also local administration heads who will be responsible for putting agreements that may be achieved there into practice, he said.

"This requires thorough preparations. We will set the date and send official invitations to this coordination meeting," Kupchishin said.

"Together with the UN and the government of Syria, we need to find an answer to the question, "Why aren't people leaving Rukban? Don't they want to?" he said.

"I can hardly believe it. Far more acceptable conditions have been created for refugees in other camps - the infrastructure needed to relocate people from this camp has been created in the governorates of Rif Dimashq, Hama and Homs. The government has prepared comfortable houses, has opened new schools and factories, and has created thousands of jobs. In the refugees' home region - the cities of Mkhin, Al-Qaryatayn, Palmyra, and Homs - the authorities stand ready to help rebuild farms," Kupchishin said.

Russia sees the UN "as the guarantor of stability and is ready to cooperate with the UN to tackle the problems of refugees from Rukban," he said.

Fleischer, for her part, agreed that it is necessary to start taking concrete steps to help these suffering people.

The conditions in the Rukban camp are quite dire, she said, adding that food is being sold at the local market at seriously inflated prices, there is no normal water supply or decent accommodation. She particularly stressed the absence of medical care and a shortage of doctors.

Fleischer said that on Monday she had met with the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and received guarantees that if a decision on evacuating refugees from this camp was adopted, this organization would assume responsibility for transporting people from Rukban to the Jleb checkpoint.

She reiterated that the UN is a guarantor of refugees' security and, therefore, representatives of the international community should monitor all of the stages of refugees' evacuation from the camp and their return to their homes. They should be present both in Rukban and at the Jleb checkpoint and then accompany the refugees to places they will choose to stay.

Fleischer said that at next teleconference next Thursday with Geneva, where the UN headquarters is based, she will inform her superiors of all the issues and proposals that were put forth at the talks with Kupchishin.

Fleischer also reaffirmed the need to send the third humanitarian aid convoy to Rukban and asked the Russian center for reconciliation to help ensure the security of such a convoy, which, according to Fleischer, is needed to support the suffering people. A request for permission to send this convoy has already been forwarded to the Syrian government, she said.