Homs Aid Convoy Still Stalled as Geneva Talks Stumble On

Destruction_in_Homs_(2)
Jan. 28, 2014 – A humanitarian aid convoy waiting to enter Homs remains stalled at the perimeter of the besieged Syrian city.

Lakhdar Brahimi announced on Sunday that armed groups had given assurances that the convoy would not be attacked if it entered Homs. However, government approval is holding up its entry

“The convoy is ready and still waiting to enter. The authorization has not been given yet,” Brahimi said at a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday.  “We haven’t given up on that.”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has not had access to the city since late 2012.

There is also no progress on evacuating civilians trapped in Old Homs. On Sunday, Brahimi said the Syrian government would allow women and children to immediately leave but concern for their male kin as well as a desire for aid to enter before they leave is reportedly holding up their departure from the city.

Meanwhile, negotiations for a political solution between representatives of the Syrian government and opposition  - their first face to face talks – have produced no tangible outcome so far. Brahimi, the UN-Arab League special representative mediating, acknowledged the difficulty of his task as the talks in the Swiss city enter the final three days.

“You know, I think I will repeat again that these are not easy negotiations and they haven’t been easy today, they haven’t been easy these past days and they will probably not be easy in the coming few days,” he said. “But, I am glad that you have been told by representatives of the two sides that they intend to stay and continue these discussions until Friday, as originally planned.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Photo: Homs, April 2012/Wikimedia

Geneva Syria Talks Yield Progress on Humanitarian Issues

Montreux Conference in Geneva
Jan. 26, 2014 –  The Syrian government will allow trapped women and children to immediately leave the old city of Homs, Lakhdar Brahimi said on Sunday.

He was speaking after the second day of face to face talks between representatives of the Syrian government and opposition in Geneva, Switzerland.

Aid agencies have for months called for a pause in fighting to allow trapped civilians to leave the city which is partially rebel-held.

Pro-Assad forces have bombarded Homs for almost three years and the government has also reportedly blocked electricity, water and phone service while families are living without heat and adequate food.

“With regard to Homs, there is an agreement now from the armed groups inside that they will not attack a humanitarian convoy if it enters Homs,” Brahimi said in Geneva, according to a transcript provided by the UN. “What I have been told by the Government side is that women and children in this besieged area in the old city are welcome to leave immediately.”

He said “other civilians are also welcome to leave, but the Government needs the list of their names first.” Asked by a reporter who recalled the Srebrenica massacre of men and boys if this list could be used to perpetrate a similar massacre, Brahimi answered: “We don’t have that fear. I don’t think we have that fear. Horrible things are happening in Syria, we don’t want anything like Srebrenica in addition to all of that. “

While the talks are aimed at finding a political solution to the crisis which will enter its fourth year in March, there’s little indication that progress has been made on this front, but Brahimi did note there is “mutual respect” between the negotiators and an awareness that the dire humanitarian situation had to be part of the talks.

“I think we all felt, and the two parties felt also, that you cannot start negotiations about Syria without having some discussions about the very, very bad humanitarian situation,” the Algerian diplomat said.

Talks are set to resume on Monday and are expected to turn to the heart of the matter: finding a political solution based on the Geneva Communique which calls for a mutually agreed transitional government with full executive powers.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

Ban Ki-moon Disinvites Iran to Geneva II Talks

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Jan 20, 2014 – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has rescinded his invitation to Iran to participate in the Geneva II Syria talks on Wednesday.

In New York, Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, reading from a prepared statement, said Monday: “In a series of meetings and telephone conversations, senior Iranian officials assured the Secretary-General that Iran understood and supported the basis and goal of the Conference, including the Geneva Communiqué.

“The Secretary-General is deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements today that are not at all consistent with that stated commitment.  He continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva Communiqué.  Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, he has decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran’s participation.”

The text of the Geneva Communiqué, which calls for a transitional government with full executive powers, is here.

(photo/UN photo)