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US officials again snub meeting on disbanding Rukban camp

All participants have reiterated their firm belief that the Rukban camp must be disbanded as soon as possible

MOSCOW, April 2. /TASS/. Representatives of the United States, who control the Syrian territory where the Rukban refugee camp is located, have once again skipped a coordination conference on disbanding the ill-famous facility and evacuating its residents, Russian and Syrian officials have said in a joint statement.

"US representatives have once again failed to visit to Jleb checkpoint to attend the coordination meeting and instead preferred to discuss the Rukban issue at a platform in Amman (Jordan). The US keeps deliberately delaying a solution to the refugee camp problem, reluctant to grant access for a representational working group to the zone they had illegally occupied and to assume responsibility for the events that take place in Rukban," reads a joint statement by the chiefs of the joint coordination centers of Russia and Syria, Mikhail Mizintsev and Hussein Mahlouf.

On March 26, the head of the Russian center for the reconciliation of conflicting parties, Major-General Viktor Kupchishin, organized a coordination meeting at the Jleb checkpoint. Taking part in it were representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria, Russian officials, the president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and leaders of tribes locked up in Rukban. US representatives were invited to this meeting as well but chose to ignore it. The second meeting on disbanding the camp was held on Tuesday, April 2.

"During the second coordination meeting held today, all participants have reiterated their firm belief that the Rukban camp must be disbanded as soon as possible and its residents evacuated to destinations they had chosen. Once again, we urge the US command in the Tanf zone to attend the third coordination meeting, scheduled for the reserve date of April 9, 2019, in order to forge practical measures for disbanding Rukban," the statement reads.

The chiefs of the joint coordination centers of Russia and Syria said that US claims of the Syrian government not being ready to accept and accommodate the refugees were far-fetched and unjustified.

They said that the fallacy of US claims "is clearly demonstrated by the inflow of refugees from Jordan and Lebanon, from where over 170,000 Syrians returned to their homeland in the past eight months, which is four times the number of refugees in Rukban."

"The Syrian government guarantees security to the returning citizens and the compliance with all UN requirements for their decent accommodation," the statement reads.

Mizintsev and Mahlouf also said that potential water problems were another reason to close down Rukban.

"The Al-Wehda reservoir on Jordan’s territory, from which citizens get their water, is growing shallow. This is the only water source close to the US-occupied Tanf zone, and Jordan’s government fears that it might be forced to cut water supplies to Rukban as early as this summer," the statement reads.

The Rukban refugee camp emerged on the Syrian-Jordanian border in 2014 after Amman closed its border due to security and economic concerns. The area, which is controlled by illegal armed groups, is facing a severe humanitarian crisis.