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International meeting on Rukban camp confirms need to evacuate it -- Russian official

Participants of Tuesday's coordination meeting to discuss the situation in Syria's Rukban refugee camp agree that it must be closed as soon as possible, and its residents evacuated to safe zones, said the head of the Russian center for the reconciliation of conflicting parties in Syria, Maj. Gen. Viktor Kupchishin.

"Its [the meeting's] results demonstrated that there is clear understanding among its participants of the need to disband the Rukban camp and evacuate its population to the territories controlled by the Syrian government," he said.

The coordination meeting was held on Tuesday at the Jleb checkpoint, and was attended by representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Russian embassy officials, the Syrian Ministry for Local Administration and the Syrian National Reconciliation Committee, the president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and the sheikhs of tribes locked up in Rukban.

US representatives ignored the meeting. The commander of the multinational force Lieutenant-General Paul LaCamera said the coalition would not let participants of the meeting into the 55-km security zone surrounding US Tanf military base in Syria, where the Rukban camp is located. Therefore, the participants of the meeting were unable to monitor the current situation in the camp, where famine, cold, diseases and lack of sanitation are killing Syrian citizens.

Russia and Syria are calling on US military officials in Al Tanf to arrive at the Jleb checkpoint on the reserve date, April 2, for participation in a coordination meeting to identify joint steps for closing down the Rukban camp.

The head of the Russian Reconciliation Center reiterated that the Syrian government offered security guarantees and a simplified procedure to issue documents to refugees willing to leave the camp. In order to enable the safe return of refugees from the Tanf zone, a humanitarian corridor and the Jleb mobile checkpoint were set up, where bus convoys have been deployed.

Rukban refugee camp

The Rukban refugee camp emerged on the Syrian-Jordanian border in 2014, after Amman closed the border due to security and economic concerns. The area is under the control of armed gangs, and the humanitarian situation inside the camp is grave.

On March 5, the Russian Defense Ministry said its satellites had identified a cemetery of 300 fresh graves. In other words, the camp has in fact lost its status and been turned into a "reservation where hostages are held by force." The Defense Ministry said that most shelters in the camp were unlivable in winter time. Sanitary conditions are appalling and foods and other goods are available only at militants-controlled improvised bazars.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 27Mar19]

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