The United States has refused to let bus convoys planning to evacuate refugees from the Rukban camp enter the US-controlled zone in Syria's Al-Tanf, where the camp is located. That’s according to the head of the Russian Defense Ministry Centre for Syrian Reconciliation, Lt. Gen. Sergei Solomatin, as reported by the government-owned Sputnik news agency.
Russian Foreign Ministry representative Alexander Marchenko criticised Washington last week for delaying the relocation of refugees from the Rukban camp, accusing it of looking to organize convoys with international humanitarian assistance that would prolong the existence of the camp.
US Department of State deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said on March 1st, however, that Washington backs the UN and urged coordinated efforts on refugee evacuation.
“The United States supports the UN call for a durable solution for Rukban in line with protection standards and coordination with all parties", Palladino tweeted. “Unilateral Russian initiatives, not coordinated with the UN and regional parties, do not meet these standards.”
Last week, buses were sent to the Djleb checkpoint to evacuate refugees from the Rukban camp and relocate them to settlements in Al Khalidiyah, Al-Amarah, Palmyra, Mhin, Al Karyatein, and the outskirts of Damascus, Homs and Aleppo.
“The US and UN are ready for coordinated efforts on safe, voluntary, informed departures for those who wish to leave,” Palladino reaffirmed.
The Rukban camp, which houses about 40,000 people, is located in the southern part of Syria, close to Jordan. The area that became a refugee camp for Syrian residents in 2014 is now in the US-controlled zone of Al-Tanf, home to a US military base.