Failure of Red Cross-Damascus talks brings foreign intervention closer (DEBKAfile) Exclusive Report 02/25/12 10:46 PM (GMT+02:00)
The International Red Cross spokesman in Geneva reported Saturday
night, Feb. 25 that talks with the Assad government for evacuating
wounded civilians from the bombed Homs district of Baba Amr
had “yielded no concrete results.” The evacuations which began Friday
were halted after one day. The talks will continue Sunday.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the regime interrupted the
aid operation after deciding it was the opening shot toward
implementing the US-European-Arab-Turkish plan for setting up safe
havens in badly bombed Syrian regions, thereby removing them from
central government control. At the same time, if Assad imagined that
keeping the Red Cross out would scuttle the plan, he was mistaken;
the longer the talks with the Red Cross are stalled, the sooner this
plan is likely to be imposed unilaterally.
Earlier Feb. 25, DEBKAfile reported:
Under the protection of the United States, Turkey, Britain, France,
Italy, Qatar and the UAE, the first Red Cross convoys reached Homs
Friday, Feb. 24. They began evacuating untreated injured victims and
bringing medical aid to the city devastated and beleaguered by Bashar
Assad’s troops. This ICRC corridor marked the first step toward
foreign intervention in the Syrian crisis.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report exclusively that it came about
after Washington and Ankara warned Assad through confidential
channels that if his forces interfered with the emergency medical
route for Homs, US and Turkish warplanes would take off from air
bases in East Turkey and give the medical convoys air cover, thereby
opening the door for a Western-Arab plan for resolving the Syrian
crisis (which was first revealed exclusively in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 530
out Friday, Feb. 23.)
Assad’s response to the warning is unknown.
Early Saturday, US President Barack Obama delivered his harshest
denunciation yet of the Assad regime.
The International community must continue sending the message to
Syria’s president to step down, and “use every tool available to
prevent the slaughter of innocents. It is time for a transition and
time for that regime to move on.”
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, addressing the Friends of Syria
conference in Tunis Friday, said: “I am convinced Assad’s days are
numbered, but I regret there will be more killing before he goes.”
Neither spelled out the manner of the Syria ruler’s exit but it was
clear from Clinton’s words that Washington did not expect him to go
without a fight.
Our intelligence sources report that expectation of international
protection for Homs was signified Friday by the insistence of two
injured Western correspondents, Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times and
Edith Bouvier of La Figaro, that they would only leave the battered
city if evacuated by the International Red Cross.
They were injured in the same bombardment of the Baba Amr district of
Homs which last week killed Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik in their
clandestine press center.
Conditions of the 20,000 to 30,000 people trapped in Bab Amr are
worsening by the hour, the Red Cross spokesman in London reported, as
sensitive negotiations take place between the ICRC and the Damascus
government. They aim at gaining protection for the city of Homs and
an aid corridor through which to evacuate the wounded to Turkey and
bring in essential supplies, granting them the status of “safe
havens” free of a Syrian military presence.
In the initial stage of this plan, Western officials are talking
about cooperation between the Syrian Red Crescent and the
International Red Cross. Such cooperation if it took place might
signify Assad’s willingness to go along with the international
effort – or at least tolerate it without resistance.
The creation of a safe haven in Homs, initially to provide the
distressed populations with medical and humanitarian aid, would serve
as a precedent for other parts of Syria and obviously diminish the
regime’s control over the country. This is clearly more than Assad is
willing to accept as of now.
There was no sign of a ceasefire Saturday morning; no letup in Syrian
military shelling of Homs or savage assaults in other parts of the
country after some 200 deaths were reported in the last 48 hours..
A group of Arab medics waiting in Jordan with medical supplies was
refused entry to Syria. They declared a hunger strike until the
Syrian authorities let them in.
The Tunis conference’s formal decisions as articulated by Clinton
focused on diplomatic pressure and sanctions for bringing the Syrian
ruler to heel. Arab diplomats, led by the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud
al-Faisal, took exception to this line, demanding direct action and a
major international effort to arm and reinforce the anti-Assad rebels
who are hopelessly outgunned by Assad’s forces. (Copyright 2000-2012
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY