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Homs ceasefire extended as Syria peace talks continue

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-10

A Syrian Red Crescent official says around 300 more people were evacuated Monday from besieged areas of the Syrian city of Homs, as part of a humanitarian ceasefire that has been extended as peace talks continue in Geneva.

Khaled Erksoussi, the Red Crescent’s head of operations, says the group was notified that a cease-fire in Homs that was to end Sunday has been extended “for a few days.”

The day’s evacuations brought to around 1,000 the number of people brought out of Homs since Friday, when the truce began.

The Red Crescent has also delivered some food aid into the districts, despite shelling, though none was taken in on Monday, Erksoussi said.

Government forces have been besieging the rebel-held districts in the city for months, cutting off supplies. The truce to let in aid and let out women, children and elderly was brokered by the UN.

Continued effort

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos also welcomed the news of the three-day extension of “the humanitarian pause” in besieged neighbourhoods in Homs, while condemning the deaths of several aid workers this weekend.

Amos said “it is absolutely unacceptable” that 11 people lost their lives needlessly because the parties didn’t maintain their ceasefire during the initial three-day pause.
“UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid workers were deliberately targeted,” she added.

Amos said in a statement Monday that, despite the “extremely dangerous circumstances”, the humanitarian teams working with local authorities had managed to evacuate many people from Old Homs and had also delivered food and medical supplies.

“I hope this (extension) will allow us to evacuate yet more civilians and deliver much needed additional supplies,” she said.

Peace talks continue

In the meantime, a new round of Syrian peace talks got off to a rocky start Monday, with the warring sides blaming each other for escalating violence and difficulties getting aid to the besieged city of Homs.

The UN and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi began the latest session in Geneva by meeting separately with the government and opposition.

Yet FRANCE 24 correspondent Wassim Alahmar reported that Brahimi planned to invite the two sides to meet in the same room Tuesday at 10 am.

The so-called Geneva II talks -- spurred by the United States, which backs the opposition, and Russia, a key ally of Syria -- mark the biggest international push so far to end the war.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

Date created : 2014-02-10

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