Russian General Staff sends letter to Washington offering to rebuild Syria

Joseph Dunford

Joseph Dunford

What Happened: The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on August 4 that the chief of Russia's General Staff had sent a letter on July 19 to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff proposing that Russia and the United States work together to rebuild Syria and repatriate and protect refugees, Reuters reported.

The Russian plan received an icy reception in Washington. Such an effort would likely further cement Assad's hold on power. It blames Assad for Syria's devastation. "The Czechs announced principled readiness to cooperate in a broad global format in order to provide Syria with humanitarian aid", the Russian Foreign Ministry official added.

The Syria conflict has killed an estimated half a million people, driven some 5.6 million people out of the country and displaced around 6.6 million within it.

According to the Russian general, the Jordanian authorities also continue active efforts to facilitate the return of refugees to Syria.

The exchange offered a rare glimpse into the military communications channel between Moscow and Washington, one that Dunford himself has fiercely sought to keep private.

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"A UNHCR team is communicating with Syrians in Lebanon and we have a team in Syria", Lisa Abou Khaled told Anadolu Agency. However, this latest report shows that the channel might also be used to discuss matters that are not strictly military in nature, Reuters notes. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the talks focused on "how we might get the refugees back".

Civil defense members look for survivors after an airstrike on the rebel-held Old Aleppo, Syria, April 16, 2016.

"According to data provided by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 890,000 civilians are expected to return to Syria in the coming months", Mizintsev said at a meeting of the interdepartmental coordination headquarters supervising the return of refugees to Syria.

"The Syrian leadership continues its extensive work to repatriate refugees and confirms its readiness to resolve the issues of security guarantees, job creation, housing, assistance in the recovery of documents, as well as the provision of humanitarian assistance to Syrians overseas as well as internally displaced persons", it said in a statement.

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