According to a communiqué released by Arab Foreign Ministers who met in Amman on Monday to discuss Syria’s current conflict, the voluntary and safe return to Syria of refugees is “a top priority”. In the latest regional engagement, foreign ministers of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia met with their counterparts in Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria. The United Nations reports that 5.5 million Syrians have fled the country since the conflict began. They are now registered in Lebanon Jordan, Turkey Iraq and Egypt. The communique called on increased cooperation between Damascus and host countries, as well as the United Nations, to organize repatriation missions in a “clear timeline”.

In the 12-year civil conflict in Syria, more than 500,000 people have died. Nearly half of the population is now internally displaced or refugees. Assad’s regime has reclaimed much of the territory it lost in the early war but large swathes remain outside its control. Syria was suspended in 2011 from the Arab League for Assad’s brutal crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrations. Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Saffadi said the Amman talks followed a “consultative” meeting in Saudi Arabia held last month.

Nine Arab countries, including Gulf States, met in Jeddah in order to discuss the possibility of Syria rejoining the 22-member Arab League. Safadi described the Amman meeting as “good and positive” and said it focused on “humanitarian aspects and potential steps to ease the suffering of the brotherly Syrian population”. Safadi and his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad met privately before the talks in Amman, under strict security. They discussed Arab involvement to reach “a political resolution to the Syrian Crisis”, according to a Jordanian statement. It was the first time a Syrian Foreign Minister visited Jordan since the start of the war.