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Middle East
Aid group seeks access to Syrian civilians
Amid a persistent military campaign, head of International Red Cross to visit Syria for talks on expanding aid effort.
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2011 17:02

Independent aid agency appeals for greater access to the Syrian civilian population [Reuters]

Jakob Kellenberger, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is set to arrive in Damascus for talks with Syrian officials on expanding its aid efforts to those affected by the ongoing violence.

The two-day talks, scheduled to begin on Sunday evening, follow an appeal by the independent aid agency on June 10 for greater access to the civilian population, including people who have been wounded or detained in a military crackdown on the unrest.

"Talks will focus on the humanitarian situation in Syria and on the role the ICRC is ready to play in order to assist people affected by the ongoing violence," the ICRC said in a statement.

Kellenberger, a former senior Swiss diplomat, is to meet Adel Safar, the Syrian prime minister, and Walid al-Moualem, foreign minister, as well as senior officials of the Syrian Red Crescent, it said.

The ICRC and Syrian Red Crescent have taken short visits to the cities of Deraa, Tartous and Homs in the past month but their limited nature have made it tough to get a full picture of the needs, the Geneva-based agency said.

The talks are to come a day after Syrian troops and gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad stormed the town of Bdama near the Turkish border on Saturday, burning houses and arresting dozens, witnesses said, in a persistent military campaign to crush a popular revolt.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

'Desperate to tell their stories'

The Turkish emergency agency said that it has begun to provide aid to refugees across the Syrian border, in addition to those in Turkish camps, on Sunday.

Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught, reporting from the Turkish border, said official figures of Syrians who have fled the violence in their country "is in excess of 10,500".

The Turkish government prevented journalist from entering the camps and speaking to the refugees, on grounds of the refugees' own security and safety, our correspondent explained.

"Our experience when we have met them has been completely the opposite. We care deeply about their [the refugees] security and safety and we would never reveal the identity of anyone who didn't want their identity revealed...

"Our experience from meeting them is that they are desperate to tell their stories. They want their message to get out, they want the world to understand what is going on in Syria," McNaught said. 

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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