UN humanitarian chief in Syria for talks



Damascus: The United Nations humanitarian chief was in Damascus today for talks with Syrian officials about the nation's conflict, which has forced millions of people from their homes, destroyed the country's cities and created food and fuel shortages.

Valerie Amos did not make any public remarks upon her arrival in Damascus today for a two-day visit, but at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, she said world powers had not done enough to lessen Syrian suffering.

"The humanitarian situation in Syria is already catastrophic and it's clearly getting worse," she said. "What we are seeing now are the consequences of the failure of the international community to unite to resolve the crisis."

The UN says more than 60,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict in March 2011.

Living conditions have deteriorated across Syria during the 22-month conflict, which began with political protests that escalated into a civil war with scores of rebel groups battling President Bashar Assad's forces.

Entire towns and neighborhoods have been damaged in the fighting, and more than 2 million people are internally displaced, with another 650,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

Some areas face food shortages, and even areas that have been spared large-scale violence like Damascus lack sufficient quantities of gasoline, heating oil and cooking gas.

On Friday, the UN announced it was preparing to send USD 10 million in new US aid to help alleviate hunger in northern Syria.

World powers remain divided on how to solve the crisis. The US and many Arab and European countries have called on Assad to step down, while Russia, China and Iran refuse any pressure from outside that seeks to hasten the regime's fall.

PTI