Putin hosts Assad in fresh peace drive

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad during a meeting in Sochi on November 20, 2017. / AFP / SPUTNIK / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV
Updated 22 November 2017
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Putin hosts Assad in fresh peace drive

MOSCOW/BEIRUT: Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Syrian leader Bashar Assad late on Monday for three hours of talks to lay the groundwork for a new push by Moscow to end Syria’s conflict now that Daesh territorial caliphate is overrun.
Russia is actively trying to broker an international consensus around a peace deal for Syria, over two years after Moscow began a military intervention that turned the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favor.
Putin made a phone call to Saudi King Salman on Tuesday during which the two leaders reviewed bilateral ties. They also discussed the latest regional developments and joint cooperation to combat extremism.
Putin said he would follow up his meeting with Assad by talking in the next 48 hours to international leaders with influence over the conflict, among them US President Donald Trump and the leaders of Iran and Turkey.
After the talks in Russia — Assad’s first publicly-declared travel outside Syria since a trip to Moscow in October 2015 — a Kremlin spokesman refused to say if Assad’s own future had come up in the discussions, saying only that was up to the Syrian people.
In a sign that international attempts may be underway to bridge the differences between rival sides in the conflict, leading Syrian opposition figures, including former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, resigned.
Hijab headed the opposition High Negotiations Committee and insisted on Assad’s removal from power at the start of a political transition.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking in Moscow, said the resignations would make the opposition more reasonable and realistic.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — whose countries back opposing sides in the Syria conflict — will travel to Russia for a three-way meeting with Putin aimed at advancing the Syrian peace process.


Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

Destroyed buildings following an explosion on Aug. 12 at an arms depot in a residential area in Syria’s Idlib province city of Sarmada. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

  • Russia has offered to repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 but Jordan does not want to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland
  • Jordan would benefit from reopening its border with Syria, but also carried risks of terrorists enter the country with fake IDs

AMMAN: Russia will help Jordan repatriate more than 150,000 Syrian refugees who fled fighting with the Assad regime in the country’s south, a Jordanian official said.

The official said Russia will repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 following the establishment of a center near the border with Syria to process their paperwork.

Jordan’s Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghneimat said the Russian proposal has been under discussion.

The Jordanian government refused to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland, she said.

“It is up to the refugee to decide whether he wants to return, although the presence of large numbers of Syrians has become a burden for Jordan.”

The refugees are mainly from the war-ravaged provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, the scene of fierce clashes between rebels and Assad government forces. 

Ghneimat said the establishment of a processing center nine kilometers from the border with Syria was part of Russia’s larger proposal for the return of the refugees.

Asked about the reopening of the Nassib border crossing, the minister said it was up to Syria to decide if the crossing would be operational.

The Assad regime had not asked Jordan to reopen the border, she said.

The Jordanian border crossing of Jaber is ready to operate and roads leading to the site are secure, Ghneimat said.

A technical team, including several ministry representatives, visited the crossing last week on a tour of inspection.

Jordan would benefit from reopening the border, which is an important avenue for trade with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and several European countries, a transport ministry official said.

But reopening the border carried risks, including a fear that terrorists would enter the country with fake IDs, the official said.

The closure of the Jordan-Syrian border had severely affected Jordan’s transport sector, the head of the Syndicate of Jordanian Truck Owners said.

But he said that Jordanian trucks are ready to carry goods to Syria as soon as the border crossing is reopened. Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, about 7,000 trucks drove through the crossing each day.