ICRC seeks ceasefire in Syria

The International Committee of the Red Cross is trying to broker a ceasefire aimed at allowing emergency aid to reach people in the areas most affected by fighting in Syria.

This content was published on February 20, 2012 - 18:04 and agencies

ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad confirmed that the Geneva-based organisation has been in talks with Syrian authorities and opposition groups for some time but attempts to negotiate a cease-fire had begun only recently. She declined to give details.

"We are currently discussing several possibilities with all those concerned, and it includes a cessation of fighting in the most affected areas," Haddad told Reuters and Associated Press news agencies.

She said the talks were not aimed at resolving any political differences between President Bashar al-Assad's government and the opposition. 

"The idea is to be able to facilitate swift access to people in need," she explained.

The announcement came as Syria's military sent tanks and other reinforcements toward the restive central city of Homs in what activists said appeared to be preparations for an offensive aimed at retaking rebel-held neighbourhoods.

The United Nations last gave a death toll for the conflict in January, saying 5,400 had been killed in 2011 alone. But hundreds more have been killed since, according to activist groups.

There is no way to independently verify the numbers, however, because Syria has banned almost all foreign journalists and human rights organisations.

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