Syrian provincial governor ready to evacuate civilians

Beirut, Jan 28 (IANS/AKI) A humanitarian evacuation of Syria’s western flashpoint city of Homs can begin as soon as the UN representative mediating with armed groups okays the move, according to the provincial governor.

The evacuation will be organised by the Red Cross and female police officers, Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi told Syrian state news agency Sana.
The city is at the centre of direct talks currently taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, between the Syrian government and opposition, mediated by the UN and Arab League joint envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.
Forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad have been laying siege to Homs for the past 18 months, destroying much of the city and blocking food supplies from reaching rebel-held districts.
Brahimi admitted Monday the Geneva negotiations “haven’t produced much”.
He also said there was no breakthrough in attempts to arrange aid deliveries to besieged parts of Homs.
The government has instead offered to allow women and children to leave opposition-held areas, and to grant safe passage to men as well if they receive a list of their names.
But the opposition has dismissed it as a ruse to displace and arrest its supporters.
Homs, Syria’s third largest city, has been a key battleground in the almost three-year-long uprising against Assad.
It was dubbed “the capital of the revolution” after residents embraced the call to overthrow Assad in early 2011 and much of the city came under the control of the opposition.