UN-Arab League Envoy urges fresh talks with besieged Syrians, authorities

UN vehicles lead the evacuation from the Old City of Homs, Syria, during a three-day "humanitarian pause" in early February 2014. Photo: Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC)/B. AlHafez

17 April 2014 – Regretting the abrupt halt in talks between the Syrian authorities and the negotiating committee representing civilians and fighters trapped in the Old City of Homs, United Nations-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi today urged all the parties to return to the negotiating table and complete the deal that had been on the verge of being signed.

“It is a matter of deep regret that negotiations were brutally stopped and violence is now rife again when a comprehensive agreement seemed close at hand,” Mr. Brahimi, Joint Special representative of the UN and the League of Arab States, said in a statement to journalists.

Recent discussions between the authorities and a Negotiating Committee representing those in the city, as well as inhabitants of the Al-Waer neighbourhood, “were followed with keen interest and great hope by people all over Syria,” Mr. Brahimi noted.

The Government Media of Damascus wrote “very positively” about the process, he added.

However, the negotiations stalled and violence has since resumed and escalated to what Mr. Brahimi described as “a theatre of death and destruction.”

“We have reached out to all those who could help put an end to this tragedy,” he said noting with alarm.

In February, some 1,350 men, women and children – more than half of the estimated 2,500 who have suffered the years-long siege – were evacuated from the Old City of Homs, and food moved in as part of a “humanitarian pause,” according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Under that agreement, women, children and the elderly were allowed out but not men over 15 and under 54 years of age.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other top UN officials have repeatedly called for a political solution to the conflict, now in its fourth year. They also warned that the conflict is acutely felt by neighbouring countries and could push the entire region into region.

Mr. Ban recently appealed to Arab League members – working with Russia, the United States and the UN – to re-energize “Geneva II,” as the most recent Swiss-hosted discussions between the Syrian Government and main opposition group are known.

Two rounds of talks earlier this year, the first in January followed by a second round in February, saw both sides sticking to their positions and yielded only modest cooperation on a humanitarian issue related to aid access in the Old City of Homs.


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