Russia sends Syria refugee proposal to US after Putin-Trump agreement

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A prisoner released by the regime embraces an opposition fighter upon his arrival at Al-Eis crossing point, south of Aleppo, on Friday. (AFP)
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In this July 16, 20198, photo, US President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2018
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Russia sends Syria refugee proposal to US after Putin-Trump agreement

  • 750,000 internally displaced Syrians returned home through first half of 2018, says UN
  • Some 890,000 refugees could return to Syria from Lebanon in the near future, plus 300,000 from Turkey and 200,000 from EU countries

MOSCOW/JEDDAH:  Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday it had sent a proposal to Washington to jointly organize the return home of Syrian refugees after agreements reached by President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump, Russian agencies said.

Trump and Putin met at a summit in Helsinki, Finland on Monday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had sent Washington a proposal for drawing up a joint action plan to bring Syrian refugees back to the places they lived before the war broke out in 2011.

“The active advancement in this direction has been helped by the agreements reached by the presidents of Russia and the United States during the summit in Helsinki ...,” Mikhail Mizintsev, a ministry official, was quoted as saying by TASS.

The US and Russia’s militaries have a communications link in Syria to avoid accidental clashes and joint work on refugees would represent greater cooperation.

“The proposals presented by Russia are currently being worked out by the US side,” the ministry said.

It said the proposals include setting up a Russian-US-Jordanian monitoring group in Amman and a similar group in Lebanon. It said over 1.7 million Syrian refugees would be able to return to Syria in the near future.

Mizintsev said preliminary assessments indicated 890,000 refugees could return to Syria from Lebanon in the near future, 300,000 from Turkey and 200,000 from EU countries.

Separately, the UN said that an estimated 750,000 internally displaced Syrians returned to their homes through the first half of 2018, nearly equal the amount for all of last year.

The returns have largely occurred in areas that regime forces have clawed back from opposition groups including Aleppo, Homs and Rural Damascus, the UN refugee agency said in a statement.

The rate of returns this year has clearly outpaced that of 2017, when an estimated 760,000 people went back to homes they had been forced to flee.

UNHCR said that in 2017 it had “ramped up its capacity inside Syria” in anticipation that larger numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) would head home to certain areas as the dynamics of the Syrian conflict changed.

The spike in returns came as record numbers were displaced elsewhere.

Opposition fighters laid down their weapons and started evacuating their positions near the Golan Heights on Friday, paving the way for President Bashar Assad’s forces to retake their positions along the Israeli frontier for the first time since 2011.

 

(With Agencies)


No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

Updated 30 min 27 sec ago
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No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

  • ‘The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern’
  • The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery

VIENNA: The UN’s nuclear watchdog said it had not seen any indication that nuclear activities in North Korea have stopped despite its pledges to denuclearize.
“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” said a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), referring to North Korea’s official name.
The report, published late Monday, by the director general of Yukiya Amano is to be submitted to an IAEA board meeting in September.
In 2009 Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear site and has since refused to allow IAEA inspections on its territory.
The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery, it said.
“As the Agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK, its knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear program is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining,” it said.
Between late-April and early-May, there were indications of the operation of the steam plant that serves the radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon site, according to the report.
However, the duration of the steam plant’s operation was not sufficient to have supported the reprocessing of a complete core from the experimental nuclear power plant reactor, it added.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump held a groundbreaking summit in Singapore in June.
At the meeting the pair struck a vague agreement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but there has been little movement since.
Before this, Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April for their first summit. They agreed to push for a declaration of an end to the Korean War this year.