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UN commissioner praises Russia for initiating Astana process

February 22, 2017, 14:28 UTC+3 MOSCOW

"We hope that it succeeds because only through a political settlement this crisis will be conclude," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said

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UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi

© AP Photo/Hussein Malla

MOSCOW, February 22. /TASS/. Russia was very instrumental in initiating the Astana process, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in an interview with TASS.

"We are looking with some expectation, some hope to the peace process that started in Astana," he said. "The Russian Federation was very instrumental in initiating the process. It is important that it succeeds. We hope that it succeeds because only through a political settlement this crisis will be concluded, people will be able to go back, the reconstruction will begin."

According to Grandi, the UN Refugee Agency values Russia’s assistance and its influence in Syria. "Inside Syria, Russia has been helpful. We have worked much with its diplomats in gaining access for humanitarian convoys. This is not just my organization, this is the UN as a whole. We want Russia to continue to exercise its influence to allow assistance to be given to all Syrians irrespective of where they are and whom they are controlled by."

Grandi added that "the UN wants to assist all civilians but it is a war so it’s difficult sometimes to have access. Wherever it’s possible we would like Russia to continue to put pressure so that access is given." He also said that a great number of refugees were in Syria’s neighboring countries. "Any support given there will be useful," the UN commissioner noted.

Help in solving humanitarian crises

The UN Refugee Agency expects Russia to help in solving the refugee issue, according to Grandi.

He praised "the work, that Russia has done for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians." However, Grandi added that it was "important that other nationalities that come seeking asylum here (in Russia) are also considered seriously, especially, Syrians. For many of them it could be a safe place to come, waiting for the possibility of going back." The UN high commissioner said that he had discussed this matter on Tuesday at a meeting with senior officials of the Russian Interior Ministry.

According to Grandi, "Russia has an important role in many situations in which there is a refugee component - Syria, Ukraine and other parts of the world." "We consider Russia a partner. We’re not a political organization. We’re not there to discuss Russia in a political manner. We’re there to tell Russia to help us with humanitarian aspects of these crises," he added.

The UN high commissioner also pointed to the need to boost cooperation with Russia in receiving refugees. "Russia traditionally has been very hospitable to students worldwide. Some of those students that come here from overseas could be refugees."

Grandi went on to say that "Russia is a global power… We are part of that globality, and globality - not just security, not just politics - is also helping people, since refugee issue is global."

During his visit to Moscow, Grandi has already held meetings with senior officials of the Interior Ministry and the Emergencies Ministry. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. His agenda also includes a meeting with Mikhail Fedotov, head of Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council, as well as with representatives of various UN agencies, partners of the UN Refugee Agency.

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