BEIRUT (TIP): The Syrian government reached an agreement with the United Nations on february 6 to secure the evacuation of hundreds of trapped civilians from besieged parts of the central city of Homs, according to Syria’s state-run TV.
The TV did not give further details but quoted Homs Governor Talal Barrazi as saying the evacuation would take place “very soon.” Rebels who have held ancient parts of the city known as Old Homs have been besieged by government forces for more than a year. The issue was one of the negotiating points during the weeklong peace talks in Geneva last month between the Damascus government and the Western-backed main Syrian opposition group.
The talks failed to achieve any concrete results on the evacuation of civilians and humanitarian aid convoys to the area. Homs, Syria’s thirdlargest city, has been one of the hardest hit areas since the country’s uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. The ongoing blockade has led to severe food shortages in the city.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the fighting, estimates that 1,200 women, children and elderly people are trapped in the besieged areas of the old quarter of Homs. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said at a briefing Thursday that Moscow was encouraging the Syrian government to “cooperate constructively” with international humanitarian agencies to help improve conditions for civilians and to reach agreements on local truces and prisoners releases. “The issue of delivering humanitarian aid to the old districts of Homs is now being solved,” Lukashevich said. “According to the latest information, the government and the opposition have reached such agreement. It’s quite a positive signal,” he said.