Syrian Government under Pressure to Allow Aid Convoy
Damascus- the Syrian government came under pressure on Monday to allow aid trucks into the besieged rebel city of Homs as negotiators sought to keep peace talks on track by focusing on humanitarian gestures. The government said women and children could leave Homs and government and opposition delegates also spoke of releasing prisoners.
The U.N. mediator said he hoped talks, which continue on Monday in Geneva, could move on to broaching the central issue that divides the two sides after three years of civil war – Syria’s political future and that of President Bashar al-Assad. Homs, occupying a strategic location in the centre of the country, has been a key battleground. Assad’s forces retook many of the surrounding areas last year, leaving rebels under siege in the city centre, along with thousands of civilians.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told a news conference on Sunday that the government would let women and children leave the city centre if rebels gave them safe passage. U.N. mediator LakhdarBrahimi said he understood that they would be free to quit Homs immediately.
Mekdad said: “If the armed terrorists in Homs allow women and children to leave the old city of Homs, we will allow them every access. Not only that, we will provide them with shelter, medicines and all that is needed. “We are ready to allow any humanitarian aid to enter into the city through the … arrangements made with the U.N.”
Western diplomats said the Syrian government should move quickly to allow this to happen or face a possible United Nations Security Council resolution, with Russia and China being urged to reverse their opposition to such a move. “The ball is still in the regime’s court. We understand that a report has gone back to Damascus seeking instructions,” one diplomat said. (Reuters)