Moscow says UN hampering Syria reconstruction

Russia’s foreign minister on Monday accused the UN of hampering the reconstruction of war-torn Syria, as the Moscow-backed Syrian regime calls on refugees to return to the country.

Sergei Lavrov said the United Nations’ political affairs department had last year sent out “a secret directive forbidding organisations belonging to (the UN) system from any project aimed at restoring the Syrian economy”.

Such organisations would only be allowed to distribute aid until progress was made on a “political transition”, he said during a Moscow press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil.

Lavrov asked UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres to explain why the Security Council “which directly oversees the resolution (of the Syria conflict) was not made aware”.

The minister said there had been a lack of transparency and awareness of the situation on the ground as the decision was being made.

“I hope he can clear this up,” Lavrov added.

Russia intervened in support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2015, in what was widely seen as a turning point in the seven-year conflict.

The regime now controls around two thirds of the country.

Moscow and Damascus are now working to accelerate the return of some 5.6 million Syrian refugees.

“Over the last month, around 7,000 refugees have left Lebanon for Syria. We are continuing our efforts in that direction,” Lavrov said.

“The conditions for this are in place and continue to improve.”

For his part, Bassil said he was “ready to cooperate with Russian authorities in the framework of several initiatives launched by Russia”.

“Conditions in Syria have changed, there are more and more zones where stability and security have been reestablished,” the Lebanese minister said.

Syria’s war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since 2011.


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