Red Cross Negotiating Humanitarian Cease-Fire in Syria

Posted February 20th, 2012 at 12:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is trying to broker a humanitarian cease-fire in Syria, as government tanks and troops mass around Homs and fears grow of a renewed offensive in the city.

The ICRC's chief spokeswoman said Monday the Geneva-based agency has been in talks with Syrian authorities and opposition groups, but attempts to negotiate a cease-fire have begun only recently.

Carla Haddad said the ICRC is currently discussing several possibilities for delivering urgently needed humanitarian aid, including “a cessation of fighting” in the most affected areas. The group is the only international agency deploying aid workers in Syria.

The announcement came as Syria's military sent tanks and other reinforcements towards the restive central city of Homs.

Also Monday, China's state-run People's Daily said Western support for Syrian opposition forces could trigger a civil war in the violence-stricken nation. The newspaper also said a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed an Arab League plan for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down would have led to more violence in the country.

China and Russia vetoed the Western- and Arab-backed resolution earlier this month.

Another state-run Chinese newspaper, the Global Times, reported Monday that China favors Arab League efforts to solve the Syrian crisis. The paper also said China is urging Syria's government and opposition to halt violence and begin “inclusive” political dialogue.

Human rights activists say more than 6,000 people have died in nearly a year of upheaval in Syria, where opposition activists have been rallying against President Assad.

A top U.S. military officer, General Martin Dempsey, said Sunday that foreign intervention in the Syrian unrest would be “very difficult” because the Assad government has what he called a “very sophisticated, integrated” air defense system and chemical and biological weapons.