IMAGE: Senior Assad advisor Bouthaina Shaaban “Let Syrian people, not Western agents, decide what’s good for Syria”
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UPDATE: The opposition has said that the afternoon session has been cancelled after a morning session broke up with the Assad delegation urging participants to adopt a statement that condemns an alleged US “decision to resume arming terrorist groups in Syria”.
Reuters reported on Monday, from American and European security officials, that Light arms supplied by the US are flowing to “moderate” Syrian insurgents in the south of Syria.
The report said funding for months of further deliveries has been approved by the US Congress.
Talks on Monday at the Geneva II conference made no progress on Syria’s political future, as the regime delegation evaded the call for President Assad’s departure with a document calling for the return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, defending Syrian sovereignty, and declaring that Syria is already a democracy governed by the rule of law.
United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said after the Monday discussions, “There are no miracles here,” offering little more than the hope that “the Syrian brethren on both sides will think of their people”.
The opposition presented a copy of the “Geneva I” communiqué of June 2012 which called for a transitional governing authority, a cease-fire, humanitarian aid, and release of detainees, but the Assad delegation’s document swept that agenda aside.
Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi emphasized that the Assad delegation’s document made no reference to “the Presidency or the person of the President at all in any of the articles”. He said it “contained articles no two Syrians can disagree upon, no matter how much they differ or are far apart or fight among each other”:
Can we imagine that there is a Syrian who can disagree with another Syrian on the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic, its territorial integrity, and the unity of its national soil, unless one of those who disagree isn’t Syrian, but an Israeli, for example?
Meanwhile, even the limited outcome from weekend talks appeared to be in trouble, as the opposition expressed scepticism about the regime’s offer for evacuation of women and children from besieged neighborhood in Homs.
The opposition delegation and local activists said the plan could be a scheme to allow Syrian forces to detain, abuse, and even kill the men remaining in the area. They noted that Damascus was still not accepting aid convoys into the neighborhoods, the opening position from Saturday’s indirect discussions.
Brahimi noted, “There is no decision [by the regime] to let them in.”
VIDEO: Senior Assad advisor Bouthaina Shaaban’s defiant interview with Al Jazeera English:
The US State Department spokesman in Geneva, Edgar Vasquez, supported the opposition:
It is a simple thing they can and must do, but so far they have refused to allow humanitarian convoys into the Old City. The armed fighters in the Old City have made clear that they will allow these convoys in. Thus, there should be no reason for delay. The regime must act now.
The Assad delegation has said that the question of aid must be considered for all Syrian cities. Vasquez countered by declaring that the regime’s “kneel or starve” policy had been applied throughout the country:
For example, in (the Damascus suburb of) Moadamiya, there was a limited evacuation but still no food aid or other humanitarian assistance. That cannot happen in Homs.
10 Kilometers Away, Aid Trucks Still Waiting to Go Into Homs
Aid agency trucks are still waiting for Government consent to move into Homs, 72 hours after a supposed agreement at the Geneva II conference to allow their entry.
“All the trucks are ready to go. They are loaded, and they are in the UN hub in Homs,” World Food Program spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva. “We need to get access, and once access is granted, we’ll go.”
The agency aims to bring in enough food to feed 2,500 people for a month.
Supplies are in a warehouse 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Homs, according to a UNICEF spokesman.
The provisions include medical kits to ward off cholera and polio, plus soap, water-treatment kits, and winter clothing.
“You And Geneva Are Like This”: Syrian Child Poses For Anti-Geneva II Photo Op
A Syrian child is photographed holding a placard reading: “You and Geneva are like this”:
Syrian State Media Says Regime, Red Cross Ready To Evacuate Civilians From Homs
The Governor of Homs Governor, Talal al-Barazi, has said a working team of women police, doctors and the Syrian Arab Red Cross are ready to arrange evacuation of civilians from besieged areas of the city.
The Governor told State news agency SANA that the evacuation could begin as soon as the UN Resident Representative, who is trying to co-ordinate with armed groups inside the Old City, requests it.
Al-Barazi said the Governorate had been pursuing the evacuation since September.
And, in an intriguing declaration, he said, “The governorate asked the Red Cross to assist getting Pope Francis and 73 other civilians who have been detained at Monastery of the Jesuit Fathers in Bustan al-Diwan neighborhood, out of Homs.”
The “Pope Francis” is not the Patriarch in Rome, but Father Francis, the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Homs. In this video, posted on Monday, he calls on the international community to find an immediate solution to break the 600-day regime blockade of Old Homs: