March 9, 2012 / 1:21 PM / 6 years ago

U.N.'s Amos says Syria wants more time on aid access

ANKARA (Reuters) - U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Friday she had demanded unhindered access for humanitarian aid to victims of Syria’s turmoil, but President Bashar al-Assad’s government had not yet given it.

“The Syrian government has asked for more time to look at the agreement that I have put to them. It is very important indeed in my view that we get unhindered access,” she said in Ankara after a visit to Syria.

“However, the government has agreed to a limited assessment exercise by U.N. agencies and the Syrian authorities which would give us some information about what is happening in the country.”

Addressing a news conference, Amos spoke of her shock at what she had seen in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, a centre of opposition to Assad, on Thursday.

“I was devastated by what I saw, That part of Homs is totally destroyed, there are no people left. Those I saw were claiming their possessions,” she said.

“And it’s important to know what has happened to those people.”

Rebel fighters fled Homs a week ago after nearly a month of shelling by government forces. Amos, a Briton, is the first senior international figure to visit Baba Amr since government forces entered the area.

Amos met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, and other ministers in Damascus.

“We continue to need a more robust engagement that will enable us to have more information about what is happening,” she said.


Earlier on Friday, Amos visited Syrian refugees at a camp in southern Turkey, as nearly 250 more people fled the conflict and sought refuge across the border, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

The number of Syrian refugees entering Turkey has grown in recent days, officials said.

In Ankara, Amos met Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who will host a meeting of foreign ministers from the “Friends of Syria” grouping of mostly Arab and Western countries in the coming weeks to discuss the crisis in Syria.

Some 12,000 Syrians are registered at camps set up in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Two Syrian generals, a colonel and a sergeant were among 234 people who arrived in Hatay’s Reyhanli district on Friday, a Foreign Ministry official told Reuters.

Ankara has turned against former friend Assad over his crackdown on unrest, and fears there could be massacres in Syrian towns and cities that are centers of opposition to his rule.

The United Nations is readying food stocks for 1.5 million people in Syria as part of a 90-day, $105 million emergency plan to help civilians deprived of basic supplies after nearly a year of conflict.

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said it had distributed some food supplies in Syria through local aid agencies, but it had not reached people in the areas worst hit by the violence.

The U.N. estimates more than 7,500 civilians have died in the crackdown.

Reporting by Jonathon Burch and Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Roche

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