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    This picture taken Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, shows an ariel view of the informal Rukban camp, between the Jordan and Syria borders.

    Russia Calls for Immediate Evacuation of Syria's Rukban Refugee Camp - Envoy

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Russia is calling on all parties to allow for the immediate evacuation of anyone who wants to leave the Syrian refugee camp of Rukban, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council on Tuesday.

    “We are suggesting a solution to the current situation and a lasting solution to the problem of Rukban: this is the evacuation of all those in the camp who express the wish to go wherever they want. All those who express that wish, of course, is the key word here", Nebenzia said, calling on all sides to "urgently start implementing this idea".

    The Russian ambassador criticized a plan floated by US Deputy Representative to the UN Jonathan Cohen, who earlier in the council's session called on Russia and Syria to allow another humanitarian aid convoy to access Rukban. Nebenzia urged all parties to stop wasting time and instead reach a long-term solution for Rukban, adding that Washington's calls for more aid convoys underscore its disregard for international law.

    READ MORE: US State Dept Calls on Russia to Help Deliver Aid to Syrian Rukban Camp

    Aid deliveries to Rukban have been severely limited in recent years because the camp is situated within the US-controlled zone surrounding its military base in At-Tanf. Nebenzia said the problems in Rukban stem from the illegal US occupation of Syrian territory, a situation that has left the camp completely closed off in a military zone.

    He noted that refugees in Rukban have been prevented from leaving, and thereby forced to reside in squalid conditions, suffering from severe food and medicine shortages and dire, unsanitary conditions. "The United States is an occupying power and in accordance with the Geneva Convention bears full responsibility for the situation in Rukban", Nebenzia said.

    US envoy Cohen denied that the United States has impeded voluntary departures from the camp. "The United States insists that any process to arrange for departures be coordinated with the UN and reflect humanitarian principles", Cohen said.

    Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the United States and militants under its control had forbidden internally displaced persons from leaving the Rukban camp.

    READ MORE: Terrorists in Rukban Camp Use Civilians as Human Shields — UN Refugee Agency

    On 19 February, Damascus, under a Russian initiative, opened two humanitarian corridors for internally displaced persons to leave the Rukban refugee camp if they choose to do so.

    On 15 February, the UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent delivered aid to the Rukban refugee camp for the first time in months. The Russian and Syrian Joint Coordination Committees on repatriation of Syrian refugees said that most of the aid was likely to be diverted to US-backed militants in the area.


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    crisis, evacuation, refugees, rukban camp, UN, Vassily Nebenzia, Rukban, Syria
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