Finally the long-delayed peace talks on Syria have a date, according to Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi. He said on Sunday international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi informed him that the talks will convene on November 23. The US and Russia, organisers of the talks didn’t confirm the news yet.
Us and Russia decided to convene the conference in may and they announced it would take place at the end of the month, but they didn’t succeed in convince all the sides to sit around a table. Then came delays after delays and the fights prevailed over the talks. Since then the situation changed dramatically. When the conference was proposed for the first time, the rebels where somehow united against the regime of Bashar Al Assad and advancing on the ground. The estimate was that there were some 80,000 dead people, 1.3 refugees and 4.5 internal displaced people. Now, they have stop counting the dead at 115,000, the refugees at more than 2 million and the internal displaced people at 4.5 million. The National Syrian Coalition is not longer representing the rebel movement’s majority against Bashar Al Assad. There are extremist groups fighting to establish the sharia law in some areas and rival rebel groups fighting against each other in a chaotic situation. And apparently the government forces are advancing. The August Easter Ghouta gas attack happened with and the crisis with the threat of a military intervention lead by the US that was defused when Syria accepted an inspection of its chemical weapons and its destruction.
Now the peace conference will be a lot more complicated to convene than in may because the situation is a lot more complex, especially in the anti-regime side.
What nobody said is if it will be some negotiation to hold a cease-fire during the conference, because the fighting is an everyday situation for thousands of people trapped by the war.
For example, on Saturday the United Nations humanitarian chief on called for a ceasefire in Moadamiyeh in Rural Damascus to allow aid agencies access to evacuate thousands of civilians trapped by the ongoing conflict in Syria.
“The humanitarian community has stressed time and time again that people must not be denied life-saving help and that the fighting has to stop,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos said in a statement.
Humanitarian agencies have been denied access to Moadamiyeh for months, the statement noted. Although the evacuation of more than 3,000 people took place on Sunday, the same number or more remain trapped. There are reports of continued shelling and fighting in the area, preventing the completion of the rescue operation.
“I call on all parties to agree an immediate pause in hostilities in Moadamiyeh to allow humanitarian agencies unhindered access to evacuate the remaining civilians and deliver life-saving treatment and supplies in areas where fighting and shelling is ongoing,” said Ms. Amos, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Those already evacuated from Moadamiyeh received immediate assistance from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, UN humanitarian agencies and partners, local businesses and private individuals, including food, medical treatment and psycho-social support.
Ms. Amos said she continues to be “extremely worried” by the situation unfolding across Syria where ordinary women, children and men are facing horrific violence and brutality from all sides of the conflict.
Thousands of families also remain trapped in other locations across Syria, for example in Nubil, Zahra, old Aleppo town, old Homs town and Hassakeh.
“Civilians must be allowed to move to safer areas without the fear of attack,” stressed Ms. Amos.
“It is vital that all parties to the conflict respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian laws to protect civilians and to allow neutral, impartial humanitarian organizations safe access to all people in need, wherever they are in Syria.”
The conflict, which began in March 2011, has claimed over 100,000 lives, sent more than 2 million people fleeing for safety to neighbouring countries and displaced 4.5 million within Syria.