Syrian breakthrough? Aid convoy expected in Homs

A shell in the middle of the road in Homs, Syria. The city is expected to receive its first convoy of humanitarian aid in 18 months on Jan. 27. Photo by: David Manyua / United Nations

Following moderately successful diplomatic efforts in Switzerland over the weekend, the Syrian city of Homs is expected to receive on Monday its first convoy of humanitarian aid in 18 months, under a tentative agreement between government and rebels that will also allow for the evacuation of thousands of civilians.

The convoy is ready to enter the old city center but will not do so until its safety can be guaranteed, according to Lakhdar Brahimi, U.N.-Arab League special envoy to Syria.

After dishing out much-needed humanitarian assistance, the empty trucks will then pick up up to 3,000 civilians — among them many women and children — that have been stuck there since government forces began their siege to weed out the rebels in June 2012. During all that time, international NGOs have been unable to reach Homs despite their repeated calls for access so they could deliver essential food and medical supplies to the civilians.

The feeble agreement on Homs was all aid groups could celebrate after four days of negotiations at the so-called Geneva II talks, where their hopes for unfettered access were quashed by government and opposition officials more intent on bickering over who was preventing who from entering or leaving the city, and whether or not the regime will try to make arrests among the civilian evacuees, which they suspect could hide rebels trying to get out of the city.

This limited outcome could however be the first concrete development to come out of the peace process since the conflict started almost four years ago.

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    As associate editor for breaking news, Carlos Santamaria supervises Devex's Manila-based news team and the creation of our daily newsletter. Carlos joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.

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