WED 19 - 6 - 2019
Date: Jun 4, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Syria extends property law deadline
Agence France Presse
DAMASCUS: Syria has amended a controversial property law to allow people a year instead of a month to prove ownership of land seized for development, the foreign minister said Saturday.

The law, known as Decree 10, allows Syria’s government to seize private property for zoned developments and compensate proven owners with shares in the new projects.

Critics, including rights groups and neighboring Lebanon, have warned the law could prevent millions of Syrians displaced by the 7-year-old war from ever returning home. Owners could potentially lose their property under the decree, but after an amendment now have up to a year – instead of 30 days – to claim shares after a new zone is announced if they prove ownership.

“The time period has been amended and become a year,” Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said at a news conference in the Syrian capital.

Moallem said the nationwide law was “necessary” after the regime regained control of the former rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus in April through a military assault and evacuation deals that displaced tens of thousands from their homes.

“Property regulation was necessary to restore the rights of the owners,” he said, accusing rebels of “burning real estate records” and “manipulating” property deeds when they held the region.

But critics have raised concerns about the repercussions of such a law, especially for those affiliated to anti-government groups who will likely not dare to make a claim.

Human Rights Watch has said the law amounts to “forced eviction.”

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil warned last month that Decree 10 could hinder the return of an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have sought refuge in his country.

But Moallem dismissed such charges as unfounded. “We are keen for displaced Syrians to return to their hometowns and we will provide all necessary facilitations to those who wish to return,” he said.

He added that Iranian military advisers are embedded with Syrian troops but that Tehran has no combat forces or fixed bases in the country.

Moallem’s comments came amid rising tension in the region as Israel has repeatedly warned against any permanent Iranian military presence in Syria. The foreign minister said Israel was making false claims to try to pressure Iran.

“There are Iranian advisers in Syria, some of whom were martyred while working with the Syrian Arab Army, and their presence is part of an agreement and in coordination with the armed forces on where they should be,” Moallem said. “There are no fixed military bases for the Islamic Republic of Iran and what Israel is circulating are lies.”

“When the conspiracy against Syria began in 2011, our brothers in the Islamic Republic of Iran came to help Syria in fighting terrorism,” Moallem said, adding that the Syrian people are “grateful” for this help from Iran.

“As long as there is war on terrorism, Syria as a sovereign state will cooperate with whoever it wants in fighting terrorism,” the minister said.

Moallem denied reports that an agreement was reached between regional and other powers over the situation of southwestern Syria, where the country’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights are located.

Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzia said Friday that he heard from the news that an agreement had been reached on “certain disengagement in the southwest of Syria and, I think, my understanding is that an agreement has been reached.”

However, asked about Nebenzia’s comments, Moallem said no agreement has been reached for southern Syria, adding that Damascus is not currently involved in any negotiations over the area.

He said that only when U.S. troops withdraw from the Al-Tanf area near the Jordanian border can an agreement be discussed. The U.S. has military advisers based in Al-Tanf.

“The U.S. troops should withdraw from Syria, and Syrian sovereignty over the Al-Tanf area is undoubted,” he said.

Regime ally Russia has called for a meeting with the United States and Jordan on the future of the southern provinces of Deraa and Qunaitra, bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

In recent weeks, Damascus has sent military reinforcements to the two provinces, which comprise some of the closest rebel-held areas to the capital.

Last month, Washington warned Damascus it would take “firm” action if the regime violated a cease-fire deal for southern Syria that was negotiated with Russia and Jordan last year.

The warning came after regime aircraft dropped leaflets on Deraa urging the rebels who control most of the province to lay down their weapons or face an offensive.

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