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Russia says it wants to work with US in Syria

Updated August 05, 2018

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MOSCOW: Russia’s army on Saturday confirmed it sent a letter to the United States last month with a proposal to cooperate on rebuilding Syria and repatriating refugees after it was reported in the media.

The Russian army’s chief of staff General Valery Gerasimov sent a letter to the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford saying Moscow is willing to cooperate with Washing­ton in demining the war-torn country and helping refugees return to their homes.

The letter had been reported in the media a day earlier, which angered Russian authorities.

“It is disappointing that the American side is unable to comply with the agreement on publicising the content of contact only after both sides agree,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement.

It added that Gerasimov’s letter was in part “about the readiness of the Russian side to work with the Syrian authorities to provide security guarantees to refugees in the Rukban camp in the US-controlled Al-Tanf area and to create conditions for their return to their homes”.

Moscow also suggested the two countries “coordinate” in demining the country, including the city of Raqqa, and “address other priority humanitarian issues for the urgent establishment of peaceful life in Syria”.

Addressing the UN Sec­urity Council last week, Ru­ssia urged world powers to help Syria’s econo­mic recovery and the re­­turn of refugees as its Damascus ally pressed on with a campaign to re-take territory in the seven-year war.

In July, Moscow also presented the US with proposals for the return of refugees from Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt that would involve international financial support.

Russia has been a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict, which has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions.

Moscow’s 2015 military intervention in support of Assad was widely seen as a turning point in the war.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2018