Syria: Women and children can leave Homs

Government says women and children in besieged parts of the city can go "immediately".

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    Women and children in the besieged districts of the city of Homs can leave "immediately", the Syrian government has said as peace talks between it and the country's opposition continues.

    "I assure you at this second if the terrorists allow the women and children to leave Old Homs, they can leave immediately," Faisal Maqdad, Syrian deputy foreign minister, said on Sunday after the third day of negotiations between the warring sides.

    "We shall also provide them with shelter and medicine and all the necessities for life."

    The government asked the opposition to provide names of other civilians who may wish to leave the siege imposed by its forces, mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said at the news conference in Geneva.

    "They are asking for the names of civilians to make sure they are not armed people," he said.

    Maqdad said the government had tried in the past to evacuate women and children but had been prevented by "terrorists". The government routinely labels as terrorists all armed opposition groups.

    The rebel-held Old Homs districts in the centre of the city have been under tight siege from President Bashar al-Assad's troops since June 2012. Thousands of residents there live in dire conditions, amid an acute shortage of food and medicine.

    Brahimi said he was hoping an aid convoy could enter Homs on Monday. 

    "We are ready to allow any humanitarian aid to enter in coordination with UN organisations in Syria," Mokdad said.

    He also called on the international community to lift sanctions on the country and said that the opposition should join him in that appeal.

    Earlier on Sunday, Syrian government officials in Geneva told Al Jazeera that a convoy was ready to enter the areas under siege, but that the officials needed to coordinate security efforts to ensure its safety.

    'Children in jail'

    Sunday's round of negotiations primarily focused on the release of detainees from the country's prisons.

    Scepticism over news allowing women and children to leave Homs

    The opposition says it has submitted a list of tens of thousands of people - including thousands of women and children - being held in government-run jails.

    Maqdad denied that any children were being held.

    Brahimi said the government had, in turn, requested from the opposition a list of people being held by the different opposition groups.

    "The opposition has agreed to collect names of detainees from the armed groups they have an authority over or communication with," Brahimi said.

    The ongoing negotiations between the rival Syrian delegations are based on a June 2012 communiqué, known as Geneva 1, which lays out a political transition plan for Syria. It also calls for an end to fighting and for the creation of humanitarian corridors to besieged areas.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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