Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that the United States and its Western colleagues are hindering the return of Syrian refugees to their motherland.
"Today we continue working persistently for the return of every refugee who wants to return and participate in the restoration of the homeland," the Syrian president said during the international conference on Wednesday.
"But there are big obstacles, besides the pressure that Syrian refugees are subjected to abroad to prevent their return; there are illegal economic sanctions and blockades imposed by the American regime or its allies," he added.
According to Assad, the "Syrian refugee problem" is an artificial issue that has been created by the Western powers, particularly the US.
The president added that the problem of refugees returning is not simply a "humanitarian issue" but also a "national problem" for the country, as many more people were now willing to return to the state.
"They refuse to be a number in politically-motivated statistics or a pawn in the hands of the regimes that support terrorism against their home country," Assad announced.
Over Five Million Refugees Displaced
Syria has been shaken by military conflict since 2011, with Daesh* insurgents taking control of much of the country in 2015; the terrorist group was almost entirely defeated three years later.
Millions of people have been displaced since then, becoming refugees in other countries, inlcuding neighbouring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Millons more are internally displaced, according to the UNHCR.
The return of refugees has now become one of the Syrian government's primary concerns. In October, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem confirmed that the government would hold a conference on the return of Syrian refugees after meeting with UN special envoy for the country Geir Pedersen. Al-Moallem had criticised the West back then for creating "false pretests" preventing the return of refugees to the country.
The announcement of the conference was first made by Russia last month, with the country's Defence Ministry revealing that it would co-organise the event that would be held in Damascus between 10 to 14 November. It was then agreed that the International Conference on the Return of Refugees, would take place on 11-12 November, but some Western countries have voiced their objection, claiming that Syria was not yet ready for the refugees to return.
During Assad's address, he thanked Moscow for the "tremendous effort" it made to organise the conference despite the West's attempts to "disrupt the forum".
*Daesh [ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State] - a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.