BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's U.N. ambassador says that if Western countries are serious about helping in the return of millions of Syrian refugees to their homeland, they should begin by lifting economic sanctions against the war-torn country.
Bashar Ja'afari spoke on Thursday in the Kazakh capital of Astana where Russia, Turkey and Iran are holding talks with the Syrian government and the opposition. The mediators are speaking separately to the warring sides, which are not meeting face-to-face.
Nearly 6 million Syrians have fled the civil war, now in its eighth year, to neighboring countries and Europe.
Ja'afari says lifting the sanctions imposed on Syria would be "the real test" for the West.
Europe says it will keep its sanctions in place as long as "repression" continues in Syria, extending the measures to 2019.