(Adds detail and quotes)
GENEVA Feb 15 Syria's government and opposition
still do not honour basic tenets of international humanitarian
law despite the evacuation of besieged Syrians from the Old City
of Homs, the head of the International Committee of the Red
Cross said on Saturday.
ICRC President Peter Maurer said the evacuation did not
herald any wider improvement in humanitarian access in Syria,
where the United Nations says it cannot access up to 3 million
people in need.
The deal to get civilians out of the Old City was initially
seen as an ice-breaker that would kickstart peace talks in
Geneva, but their second six-day round concluded on Saturday
still deadlocked on all other issues beside the evacuation.
Maurer said there were many other besieged areas besides
Homs, with over 1 million people living in extremely difficult
"Over the past year, the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) have
repeatedly attempted to gain access to Homs and other besieged
areas in order to bring much-needed relief to residents," he
said in a statement.
"Negotiations with the Syrian authorities and opposition
groups have not resulted in meaningful access or a firm
commitment to respect the basic principles of international
humanitarian law," he said. "This pattern has again played out
in Homs over the last week."
The basic tenets of the law were simple, he said. The
parties to the conflict had to provide for the basic needs of
the population or authorise impartial humanitarian action and,
if necessary, evacuations of people wanting to leave.
Anyone choosing to stay behind remained protected by
international humanitarian law and must not be attacked, he
"If humanitarian work is to be meaningful and effective, it
must be supported by the parties," he said. "This means more
than one-off distributions and operations: it requires repeated
access to the areas affected by the fighting."
(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Tom Heneghan)