The international conference on Syrian refugees kicks off on Wednesday in Damascus under Russian sponsorship, rejection of the United States and Western countries, the absence of Turkey, and a shy representation from Jordan and Lebanon

The work of the international conference for the return of Syrian refugees to their country will start in Damascus on Wednesday, in the presence of a number of countries, led by the neighboring countries, Jordan and Lebanon.

Moscow believes that after the liberation of the greater part of its lands, Syria is ready to return its refugee citizens in the countries of the world, especially the neighboring countries, where the largest proportion of them are, while the United States and a number of Western countries oppose the idea, considering that the situation in Syria still poses a threat to the safe return of refugees.

The humanitarian factor does not seem to be the main factor in the countries ’attitudes towards the Syrian refugee crisis, as the refugee camps and the refugee file formed a political pressure card on the Syrian government and President Bashar al Assad, after it was in the first years of the war one of the most important political papers to delegitimize the Syrian government.

The desire of the American administration and the Western countries to keep the refugee status as it is until the political solution is fully completed, and the US administration seeks to keep the refugees outside Syria until the date of the Syrian presidential elections 2021, to benefit from the mobilization of the largest number of votes within the refugee ranks for a competing candidate for Assad. 

The US position on the refugee conference in Damascus was clear through Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Mills, who stated to the Security Council saying it is completely inappropriate for Moscow, which supports the Syrian President, Bashar al Assad, to oversee the return of refugees.

Mills warned that Syria is not prepared for a “large-scale” return of refugees, and that the influx could cause instability.

The importance of the conference on refugees called by Russia is that it will be held in Damascus and not in any other capital, and this was with a joint design on the Russian and Syrian sides despite the fact that a number of countries that were invited to the conference asked to change its venue in order to be able to raise the level of representation in the conference on the one hand and avoid American pressure on the other hand.

However, Moscow’s choice of timing is very important, as the invited countries may find a margin of action in light of the current transitional situation in the US presidency and the problems that accompanied the recent elections.

The meeting, which was held yesterday between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Bashar al Assad via video, gave the conference additional importance to the conference, as the Russian President focused on the voluntary and safe return of refugees, while the Syrian President declared Damascus’s commitment to creating appropriate conditions for that. 

Assad stressed that the issue of the return of refugees is a “priority” for the Syrian government, especially after “a large part of the territories have been liberated, and the battlefield has receded despite the continuation of terrorism”.

He considered that the major obstacle to the return of refugees is “the Western blockade imposed on Syria, the state and the people.

The Russian Ministry of Defense called for holding a “conference for Syrian refugees” under the auspices of Russia, for the first time on September 5, 2018, describing it as a historical event and affirming the need for the participation of the concerned countries and the United Nations in it, but circumstances prevented that at that time. 

Moscow had submitted to the United States of America proposals, on July 21, 2018, during the “Helsinki” summit that took place between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Putin, on organizing work for the return of Syrian refugees and forming a joint group to finance the reconstruction of Syrian infrastructure. 

The proposals included “setting up a joint plan for the return of refugees to the places in which they lived before the conflict, especially the return of refugees from Lebanon and Jordan, and the formation of a joint Russian-American-Jordanian working group, under the auspices of the Amman Monitoring Center, as well as forming a similar group in Lebanon.

Subsequently, the small group of seven countries met (consisting of Germany, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United States of America, France, Jordan and the United Kingdom) and issued a statement confirming that there is no solution to the refugee issue in Syria before a permanent political solution is found on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution No. 2254.

Last month, a high-ranking Russian delegation moved to the conference, led by the Russian President’s special envoy, Alexander Lavrentiev, who visited Jordan on October 27th. 

The next day, the Russian delegation went to Beirut and met with President Michel Aoun before leaving for Damascus and holding a meeting with the Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

The Russian delegation did not visit Turkey and did not invite, and therefore she will be absent from the conference and Turkey expressed its disappointment about the Russian lack of coordination with her regarding it.

The success of the conference depends mainly on the attendance of the countries concerned with the file in addition to the results that will be issued by it.

The number of Syrian refugees abroad is estimated at about 6 million refugees, most of them are in the neighboring countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.