Elham Asaad Buaras
There has been a spike in fighting across Syria, as Syrian Government and opposition negotiators met face-to-face again in Geneva on February 12 following the failure of the first round of talks in January when President Bashar al-Assad’s Government ruled out any transfer of power.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said more than 200 people had been killed every day for the period of three weeks during the talks in February. At least 4,959 people had died in the three-week period since January 22, reports SOHR which has not been independently verified.
About a third of the casualties were civilians, including 515 women and children.
According to SOHR the casualty rate was higher than in any other 3-week period since the conflict began in March 2011.
On February 12, the UN-backed evacuation of civilians and delivery of aid continued in the besieged rebel-held Old City area of Homs.
More than 200 civilians left, joining hundreds allowed out since a truce was agreed in January. But concerns remain over the fate of men of military age who are being held by the Syrian authorities after attempting to leave.
Meanwhile, sharp words were exchanged by Washington and Moscow after Russia again objected to a draft UN Security Council resolution – this time, one that would call on all sides to allow aid workers access across Syria.
US President Barack Obama called Russia a “holdout” and suggested that by blocking the resolution it too was responsible for “starving civilians”, along with the Syrian Government.
A Russian foreign ministry spokesman retaliated accusing the US of “biased distortion” of Russia’s position, highlighting Russia’s role in helping achieve the ceasefire in Homs and insisting Russia was as concerned about the humanitarian situation in Syria as Washington.
He said that Russian diplomats were working with Syrian authorities to help humanitarian efforts and challenged the US to use their influence with the rebels for the same purpose.
The ministry dismissed the Western-backed UN draft resolution raising the prospect of sanctions on Damascus if it fails to create conditions for unrestricted humanitarian aid deliveries as “unbalanced and counterproductive.”
The opposition proposed a transitional governing body (TGB) to be set up to oversee a UN-monitored ceasefire across Syria and steer it out of the war, which has lasted nearly 3 years.
It would expel all foreign fighters, allow full humanitarian access and achieve a political solution to the war.
However, regime representatives refused to discuss the plan, saying it was broaching political questions prematurely.
The conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives and has driven 9.5 million people from their homes.