Jordan says return of displaced Syrians in southern Syria is top priority

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AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan’s foreign minister said on Friday the return of tens of thousands of displaced Syrians in southern Syria is the kingdom’s top priority and he had discussed “practical guarantees” with concerned parties.

“Securing the return of our Syrian brothers to their homes and ensuring their security in their country leads our discussions with all the parties,” Ayman Safadi said in a tweet.

South Syrian rebels said they had agreed to lay down arms in a Russian-brokered deal that appeared to surrender Deraa province to the government in another major victory for President Bashar al-Assad and his alliance with Russia.

The Syrian government recovered the crucial Nassib border crossing with Jordan, held by rebels for three years, state media reported, after a fierce assault in insurgent territory along the frontier backed by Russian air strikes.

But the assault has created a new problem for Jordan in the shape of tens of thousands of civilians who have fled intensive aerial bombardment of their towns and moved toward the border.

“We have discussed practical guarantees to achieve their return,” Safadi said, adding it was the international community’s responsibility to push for a political settlement of the crisis.

Many ordinary Syrians who lived in opposition held areas for years fear retribution and say they do not trust the authorities if they return to live again under state authority.

The United Nations has called on Jordan to open its border. Jordan, which is already hosting some 650,000 Syrian refugees, has refused so far, citing a combination of security and economic pressures.

The U.N. refugee agency says around 60,000 Syrians have gathered near the border. The total number of displaced by the offensive now stands at over 320,000 people.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-KhalidiEditing by Alison Williams