We, the below signatories, are civil organizations, groups and personalities, working in the interest of the Syrian society to achieve a sustainable just peace in Syria. We support the on-going efforts to negotiate a ceasefire and to protect the largest number of civilians in besieged areas in Homs. We value the efforts of Syrian and international organisations involved in these negotiations. However having closely followed the process and details of the agreement reached to evacuate civilians from the besieged neighbourhoods, we do have serious concerns over the likelihood of a successful outcome of this agreement.
The evacuation of civilians wishing to leave the besieged areas under the supervision of UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR and Red Crescent is a welcome step given that these civilians have suffered for too long under the siege. We deeply appreciate the efforts of these organizations and the heroism of their members working on the ground in order to complete this humanitarian operation. But to successfully complete this operation, essential elements must be added to ensure that the operation is a step on the way to building a sustainable peace, and to ensure the operation remains a humanitarian one, not a step that enables some of the military parties to prepare for military escalation on a larger scale. Sustainable peace cannot be achieved through forcing the parties to surrender or crushing them militarily. Instead it should be founded on consensus building, finding the common ground and the will of all parties to provide safety and security for all Syrians.
Civil society organizations have already observed several violations by the regular Syrian army forces, as well as the unofficial armed groups who are fighting on the side of the regime during the truce. This includes the shooting of an elderly civilian during the evacuation, mortar shelling, and breaching the terms of the agreement on how to transfer civilians from the area and those responsible for this process. The regime also reportedly re-bombed the besieged areas immediately following the expiration of temporary truce after six pm.
In the absence of any neutral monitoring authority in Syria to observe and ensure the implementation of the signed agreement by all parties, we call upon all the parties concerned in Syria, especially the UN and the states that are supporting the regime to take the following steps:
- To obtain guarantees signed by the relevant authorities in the Syrian regime not to storm the besieged areas, undertake bombing or shooting as long at least for the duration of the truce to which it committed and not to apprehend civilians who leave the besieged areas.
- To ask the UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR and Syrian Red Crescent to boost their presence in some points on the border of the besieged areas even after the end of their direct role in the evacuation of civilians and delivery of humanitarian aid. The presence of these organisations in these areas has proved during the past few days to be a significant deterrent that forced all parties to respect the truce, albeit relatively. They can play important humanitarian roles not only by participating in humanitarian operations, but also by strengthening their presence in the truce area and use early warning mechanisms. We propose establishing centres for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) inside the city of Homs.
- To urge all parties to extend the truce to cover all hours of the day and to become a permanent ceasefire, to comply with the terms of the signed agreements and to put them in the context of a negotiated political solution that fulfils the demands of all parties and lays the foundation for a successful model that can be built upon to reach a sustainable just peace in Syria.
Finally, we call on all concerned human rights organizations and the media to focus on the besieged areas that are evacuated of civilians, even after the end of the evacuation process, to serve as an additional observing eye that monitors humanitarian or military violations.
Coalitions and Networks:
Organisations, councils and groups: