U.N. confirms humanitarian pause in Homs
U.N. Security Council urges Syria to expedite handover of chemical weapons
The Syrian government and rebels agreed a “pause” in the besieged city of Homs to allow access for humanitarian aid into the city, the United Nations said on Thursday.
The agreement also clears the way for the delivery of essential lifesaving supplies for about 2,500 civilians, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters, citing comments from Valerie Amos, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief.
Rebel-held Old City areas of central Homs have come under near-daily shelling ever since the army blockaded them in June 2012.
According to Syria’s state news agency, “authorities will implement the deal by providing the necessary humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter and medical aid for innocent civilians who leave” the besieged districts.
In New York, U.N. spokesman Haq said Amos had reiterated that she would continue to monitor developments.
“We need to see unhindered continuous and safe access for humanitarian workers to the millions of people trapped,” Haq, quoting Amos, added.
If the Homs agreement enters into force it would be the first such gesture by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since negotiations with the Syrian opposition and involving world powers were held in Geneva last month.
An agreement to allow civilians to leave Homs was announced in Geneva, but the Syrian government and the opposition later accused each other of blocking the plan.
Chemical weapons called
Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council is calling on Syria to speed up the removal of the most harmful chemical agents from the country for destruction.
Under a timetable set up by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Syria was to have given up its entire stockpile of chemical weapons by Wednesday.
A council statement issued Thursday after a briefing by Sigrid Kaag, the head of the mission charged with destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, called on Syria “to expedite actions to meet its obligation to transport in a systematic and sufficiently accelerated manner all relevant chemicals to Latakia for removal from Syrian territory.”
Kaag said she does not believe the Syrian government is deliberately delaying the transfer of its chemical arsenal abroad.
“No I don’t think so,” Sigrid Kaag told reporters when asked if the Syrian government may be deliberately stalling. “Delays are not insurmountable. Delays have a reason, there’s a rationale, there’s a context.”
[With AFP, AP]
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