Syria’s moderate opposition in ‘serious difficulty’: France
MONACO / GENEVA
Men walk past damaged buildings in the besieged area of Syria’s Homs. REUTERS PhotoFrench Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Dec. 14 that the moderate opposition to the Syrian regime was in “serious difficulty” and that long-delayed peace talks aimed at ending the crisis were in trouble.
“On Syria, I’m unfortunately rather pessimistic,” Fabius said, according to Agence France-Presse.
“The moderate opposition that we support is in serious difficulty,” he said, voicing “doubts” over the prospects of peace talks known as “Geneva 2” that mediators have been trying to organize to negotiate an end to the conflict.
The talks are scheduled for Jan. 22 in the Swiss city, but Fabius said there were questions over whether they would make progress toward ending the civil war that has now raged for more than two and a half years and killed more than 126,000 people.
“My fellow European ministers and I are working to make (the talks) a success, but there’s room for lots of doubts. And unfortunately, if this meeting’s not a success, it means this martyred country is going to keep suffering - and neighboring countries, too,” he said.
Assad dictates aid distribution: UN
Meanwhile, United Nations officials said divisions among world powers that have crippled peacemaking are also denying U.N. staff the power to defy President Bashar al-Assad’s officials and operate in neighborhoods now under siege.
“In government-controlled parts of Syria, what, where and to whom to distribute aid, and even staff recruitment, have to be negotiated and are sometimes dictated,” said Ben Parker, who ran the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Syria for a year until last February.
A binding Security Council resolution could formally oblige the authorities to let aid agencies into areas like the Damascus suburbs and the old city of Homs, according to Parker.
“It is a fundamental flaw in the international system that it is possible for a rogue state to hold its own people hostage,” said a Western diplomat who works on aid issues.
“The reality is there is a risk of being thrown out,” he said. “You have to look ultimately at what the moral obligation is to serve as many as you can.”