MOSCOW: ‘Western sanctions in fact hamper repatriation of Syrian refugees’

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Western sanctions against Damascus hinder the return of Syrian refugees, said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

“This is a very important issue: the rehabilitation of the Syrian economy, the problem is to overcome unilateral Western sanctions against Syria, which is very important for the return of the refugees to Syria,” the deputy minister told reporters.

The sanctions were imposed by the Western countries practically since the beginning of the conflict in the Arab country to put pressure on Syrian authorities.

Syria has been undergoing a war since March 2011. Government troops are confronted by armed imperialist-backed opposition groups and terrorist organizations like ISIS and the Al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front.

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The solution to the conflict is being negotiated on two fronts: in Geneva under the auspices of the UN and in Astana by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Currently millions of Syrians are displaced, the majority of them internally. Millions are also displaced in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Europe, with rich Arab countries who are funding opposition groups, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, hosting few refugees.

Turkey has been relocating refugees back to Syria, but often in areas that were once Kurdish-majority, such as the Afrin region in Aleppo province. This is because Turkey would rather have a demographic shift to favor Arabs in the border region as majority of Kurds in Syria and Turkey supporting the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group recognized as a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Washington. However, despite Washington recognizing the PKK as a terrorist organization, it still finances and supports the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian branch of the PKK.

This has been a major cause of friction between Washington and Ankara. Turkey says the PKK/YPG are trying to carve out an independent Kurdistan from its territory, and it is for this reason that Turkey tries to demographically change the Syria-Turkey border region to favor Arabs to weaken the calls for an independent Kurdistan.

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