Syria strikes deal with Jordan to return refugees

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has struck a deal for thousands of migrants living in Jordan to return home to Syria.

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Russian military police are patrolling the al-Nassib border crossing between Jordan and Syria, where the border remains closed from the Jordanian side, Syrian state media reported Wednesday.

The deal, yet to be confirmed by Amman, would open the border crossing next week.

“In a span of 24 hours, the checkpoint is capable of handling up to 4,000 people and 50 cars. Today, no one used it to cross the border, but the lists [of returning refugee] are being drafted. We are expecting people to come,” said Mikhail Kilasyev, with the Russian Center for Reception, Allocation and Accommodation of Refugees in Syria.

Most Syrians in Jordan are living in two large refugee camps in the north and east part of the country.

In Syria’s southern Daraa province, where many of Jordan’s Syrian population are from, preparations are underway for their return. Those whose homes are not restored will be placed in shelters.

During the past seven years, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees registered 5 million people who escaped the Syrian war to neighboring countries, along with 7 million who were internally displaced, a scenario creating a security, political and economic burden on neighboring countries.

On Sept. 7 in Istanbul, Turkey, a summitwill be held, with officials from Russia, Germany and France joining the Turkish government to discuss the issue.

Turkey is devising its own plan to return as many of the 4 million Syrians as possible to northern Syria, where its forces have control.

Russian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov sent a letter to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford expressing Moscow’s readiness to cooperate with Washington in helping refugees return home.

Moscow also urged the the U.N. Security Council to help return refugees and revive the country’s economy.

 By Susan McFarland