Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Fighting between opposition forces and government troops continued in Homs on Friday amid international fears of dangerous repercussions on civilians after a deal to allow civilians to leave the besieged town broke down.
Joint UN–Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called on both parties to return to talks that had broken down in February to lift the siege on the rebel-held town. “We urge all the parties to return to the negotiating table and complete the deal which was on the verge of being signed,” he told a press conference on Thursday. He warned that central Homs had become a “theater of death and destruction” after the Assad government’s move to retake the city early this week.
The UN Security Council met on Thursday to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Homs, but failed to reach an agreement. The current UN Security Council president, Nigerian Ambassador Joy Ogwu, called for the “immediate” implementation of a resolution passed earlier this year calling for humanitarian aid to be allowed through to the besieged city. Ogwu also expressed support for Brahimi’s call for the resumption of discussions between the Syrian authorities and the opposition.
The Syrian rebels’ retreat on the ground, with government troops advancing in Homs and recapturing Qalamoun last week, comes as opposition forces seek to secure diplomatic advances as a springboard to a counter-offensive.
Following a meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby on Thursday, Syrian National Coalition member Haitham Al-Maleh told Asharq Al-Awsat that the West-backed coalition is seeking to formally take up Syria’s seat at the Arab League in order to secure political support for the ailing revolution. “The objective is not the seat in itself, but the political support this would provide to the Syrian revolution.”
As for the opposition taking the necessary action to meet the Arab League’s requirements for it to take up Syria’s seat, he said: “We will appoint a foreign minister soon, while we have also formed a committee to expand the Coalition’s executive body from 19 to 25 members. This body will be formed under my chairmanship in Istanbul on April 22, to prepare for these reforms.”
He said the Syrian opposition coalition had been granted observer status to attend Arab League working committees, including the human rights committee.