Possible aid relief convoy to enter Homs

HomsTop Syrian government officials have said that an aid convoy is ready to enter the city of Homs after rival delegations meeting in Geneva agreed on the need for humanitarian access to conflict areas.

Bouthaina Shabaan, President Bashar al-Assad’s media and political adviser, made the remarks on Sunday, the third day of peace talks in the Swiss city.

“This is not a concession by the government,” Shaaban said in an interview.

“In 2013, the government put in place a plan to reach all areas affected by terrorists.” The government routinely labels all armed opposition groups as terrorists.

“We have been trying our best to reach all areas of Syria and all humanitarian organisations have been writing positive reports on what the Syrian government is doing on the ground.”

Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi also said that the aid convoy was ready to enter the besieged city, and that the government was coordinating security efforts to ensure its safety.

The negotiations, called Geneva II, are based on a communique from 2012 that lays out a political transition plan and calls for the creation of humanitarian corridors.

The opposition delegation, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), had pushed on Saturday for aid access to Homs. Several districts in the city have been besieged for more than 18 months and residents face a severe shortage of food and medical supplies.

Sunday’s negotiations will focus on the release of thousands of detainees from the country’s prison.

Monzer Akbik, a member of Syria’s opposition delegation told reporters they had submitted to UN mediator for Syria peace talks, Lakhdar Brahimi, names of tens of thousands of detainees, including thousands of women and children, held in prisons.

In the same interview, Shabaan said the opposition delegation in Switzerland did not represent all opposition parties in Syria.

Earlier this month, the National Coordination Body, a Syrian opposition group that some rebels see as a front for Assad, decided not to take part in Geneva II. The National Coordination Body, an internal opposition group within the SNC that rejects armed rebellion against Assad, is also known as the National Coordination Committee.

“They do not represent all opposition. There are national opposition parties in Syria. This is not logical. You cannot solve the problem in Syria if you did not invite all of them.”

She said that a point of contention between Russia and the US was that Moscow had wanted all opposition parties to attend, but that Washington refused.

Shabaan said the government delegation had been promised that this was only the first round of negotiations and that others would be invited at a later stage.

“We want to talk to those who represent the ground,” she said.

The communique also calls for an end of fighting between the two parties.

“We submitted a plan to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We do not mind a ceasefire in Aleppo: Take terrorists out and allow aid in and re-deploy police force to bring about stability,” Shabaan said.

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