Share This Page

Syria talks focused on route for aid shipment

| Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, 7:51 p.m.

GENEVA — The Syrian government and its opponents, in their first face-to-face meeting, on Saturday discussed opening an aid corridor to the besieged old city neighborhood of Homs, raising hopes that a humanitarian gesture might spur progress toward ending Syria's devastating civil war.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.'s special envoy for Syria, said a convoy with food, medicines and supplies could go in as soon as Monday — if agreement can be reached with local belligerents on Sunday.

The old city has been under siege for well over a year, and the last aid delivery there was in November 2012, an official of the International Committee of the Red Cross told McClatchy. He said the ICRC, and its partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, have repeatedly been refused permission to send in food and medicine.

The ICRC does not know how many people are living in the largely destroyed old town, but estimates there are between 1,000 and 3,000, said Robert Mardini, the ICRC director of operations in the Middle East.

Louay Safi, a member of the Syrian Opposition Coalition's negotiating team, told reporters his group believed there might 500 families still in the besieged areas of Homs, suggesting a slightly higher number of individual men, women and children, given aid group estimates that the average Syrian family includes seven people.

“People have been eating animals from the streetâ?¦leaves and grass,” Safi said. “Nothing gets in — food or water,” and residents of the old city have to dig wells to get water, he said.

“Homs is a test balloon,” Safi said. “We want to see if the regime will be able to provide food to people who are going hungry.”

While most of Homs is under government control, some rebel-controlled districts have been the target of fierce government attacks this week, and even as the negotiators were meeting here, the Houla district was under shell fire, according to the anti-government Local Coordinating Committees. Also attacked this week were the Homs districts of al Waar, al Hamra and al Ghouta, activists reported.

Elsewere in Syria, anti-government activists reported government helicopters had dropped so-called barrel bombs — improvised explosive devices with immense destructive force — on Daraya, a Damascus suburb, and had shelled several other places. At least seven people were killed, the committees said.

Brahimi said, “It is very unfortunate that the fighting continues, that the shelling continues.” He said it was “extremely unfortunate” that barrel bombs were being used, as they are a forbidden weapon under international law.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.