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Geneva II: Talking about aid

We ask if a comprehensive deal is possible to get aid into Syria and how would it be implemented on the ground.

Last updated: 28 Jan 2014 12:46
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As talks continue in Geneva to end the stalemate in Syria, there is little sign of any progress on the core issue: whether President Bashar al-Assad will stay in power or not.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government and opposition are also stuck on how to get much-needed aid into the besieged city of Homs.

Away from the politics, there has been a focus on Syria's humanitarian disaster. More than 100,000 people have been killed in three years of fighting, and almost 2.5 million people have been displaced to neighbouring countries.

But it is inside Syria where the conflict has taken its biggest toll: the United Nations says 6.5 million people have been internally displaced and now require humanitarian assistance, and nearly another 2.5 million refugees have fled from Syria.

The UN appealed for $6.5bn in aid to provide for Syrian refugees - western and Gulf countries pledged $2.4bn to Syria earlier this month.

More than two million Syrian children do not attend school, according to the UN. Over 20 percent of Syrian schools have been destroyed or are unusable, and there are reports of people starving to death in refugee camps.

On Sunday, the Geneva II talks yielded some hope for civilians in Homs, with a deal on the safe passage of civilians.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad agreed that women and children could leave the city. The Syrian government said medicine and shelter would be given to those fleeing Homs, and that humanitarian aid would be allowed in through the UN.

Homs, in central Syria, is a strategic area for both sides. It was one of the first cities to experience widespread unrest, and has been labelled by some as 'the capital of the revolution'.

Homs has been under siege by troops loyal to Assad since 2012. Most of Homs has been decimated by shelling and street fighting, but it is also not the only Syrian city under siege.

Government and rebel forces continue to tussle for control of areas in the capital Damascus. More attention is now being given to the 45,000 people in Yarmouk refugee camp - who have been besieged for months - with little access to food and medicine.

In Aleppo, a city once considered a rebel stronghold, the government continues to make gains. In just the last week, the city has come under intense bombardment by Assad forces.

And there are almost daily skirmishes in other contested areas of the country like Deir az-Zor and Idlib.

The clashes are not only a fight against President Assad's troops - the end of last year saw fighting in Al Raqqa between competing rebel groups.

So, as the Geneva II talks continue, is a comprehensive deal possible to get aid to affected areas? And how would it be implemented on the ground?

To discuss this, Inside Story presenter Adrian Finighan is joined by guests: Monzer Akbik, a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition; Robert Mardini, the head of operations for the Near and Middle East at the International Committee of the Red Cross; and Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics.

Al Jazeera's James Bays also spoke to Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Bashar al-Assad, who appeared to dismiss the importance of humanitarian aid to Homs.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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