Jordan, Russia, and the US are in talks over the closure of the Rukban desert camp for 50,000 displaced Syrians, many of whom fear a forced return to their homes.
Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said it supports a Russian plan to empty Rukban, near the Jordanian border, where people fled in 2015 after the Islamic State overran their home areas. Spokesman Majed al-Qatarneh said:
Jordanian-US-Russian talks have begun with the aim of finding a fundamental solution to Rukban by ensuring the right conditions of their voluntary return to their cities and towns.
Jordan supports the Russian plan to create the conditions that allow the emptying of the camp.
Russia and the Assad regime have pressed for months for the return of the displaced to their home areas. However, residents are concerned over detention, forced conscription, and the uncertain status of their property.
The Assad regime added to the pressure with an effective siege of Rukban, cutting off the main route into the camp and refusing access to the UN until an aid convoy was finally allowed last week.
Jordan, which closed the border in June 2016 after an Islamic State bombing, has also restricted the movement of food and essential supplies.
The blockade put thousands of camp residents at risk, with medics reporting at least 14 deaths in recent weeks from lack of medical supplies and facilities.
“Intelligence sources” said the Russian plan proposes negotiations for safe passage to opposition areas in northwest Syria for some residents, and for assistance to those who will return to their home areas.
Moscow has used Rukban in its effort to force US withdrawal from Syria. The desert area is within a 55-km exclusion zone around the main US base at Tanf, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders.
The American military responded by accusing the Russians of blocking aid until the UN convoy finally reached residents last week.