Evacuations resume in Syria’s Homs

Russia believes a draft U.N. resolution on aid access in Syria is aimed at creating grounds for military intervention

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A humanitarian ceasefire allowing the delivery of aid and evacuation of civilians from the Syrian city of Homs could be extended further if there are more people wishing to leave its besieged Old City, the city's governor said.

Wednesday is the last day of a three-day extension of ceasefire, Talal al-Barazi, Homs' governor said, according to Reuters.

"If we see that it is appropriate and there is a need for the extension we will study it with the United Nations and request the extension for an additional period," he said by telephone.

"We are still not sure if there are people who want to leave today (Wednesday), and whether there are those remaining until tomorrow. If that becomes clear to us (that there are still those remaining), there is nothing to prevent us continuing until the last civilian is evacuated," he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, operations to evacuate civilians from Homs and deliver aid resumed after being suspended for a day, Barazi told Agence France-Presse.

"At 11:00 am (0900 GMT), food aid was able to enter the Old City of Homs," Barazi said, adding that the vehicles delivering the assistance were expected to evacuate a group of civilians on their way out.

Between Friday and Monday, just over 1,150 people were evacuated, and the World Food Program delivered enough food for another 1,550 families into the besieged neighborhoods.


But hundreds of civilians remain trapped in the Old City - a hub of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

Red Crescent head of operations Khaled Erksoussi told AFP his teams were waiting for the conclusion of a daily meeting between the United Nations and Homs's governor.

"We are expecting that we'll be able to get some more food material in and hoping to get some more people out," he told AFP.

Since a U.N.-mediated deal put in place on Friday, the Red Crescent and U.N. agencies have been evacuating civilians from parts of besieged Homs and delivering aid to those staying behind.

Russia to veto Syria aid resolution

Meanwhile, Russia on Wednesday said it believed a draft U.N. resolution on aid access in Syria is aimed at creating grounds for military intervention and would veto the document in its current form, RIA news agency quoted Gennady Gatilov, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, as saying.

“It is unacceptable to us in the form in which it is now being prepared, and we, of course, will not let it through,” Gatilov said speaking about a Western-Arab draft that was debated in the U.N. Security Council.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the draft was unacceptable because it was “absolutely one-sided.”

“The ideas that were shared with us by those initiating this process... are absolutely unacceptable and contain an ultimatum for the government, that if they don't solve all this in two weeks then we automatically introduce sanctions,” Lavrov said in Moscow, in statements carried by Agence France-Presse.

“Instead of engaging in everyday, meticulous work to resolve problems that block deliveries of humanitarian aid, they see a new resolution as some kind of simplistic solution,” he said.

U.N. diplomats have tried to persuade Russia to back a new resolution, drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, which “demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, immediately end the sieges of the Old City of Homs.”

But Lavrov said focusing on one city and the government's role was “absolutely one-sided and detached from the facts.”

“It’s as if there are no witness accounts, even from the humanitarian agencies, that the militant groups are the main impediments to the humanitarian operation in Homs and in delivering humanitarian aid to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp,” he said.

A second round of Syria peace talks - known as the Geneva II talks - got off to a shaky start on Monday, with the two sides complaining about violations of a local ceasefire and an Islamist offensive in the war torn country.

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