As UN mediates in Geneva, fighting continues in Syria, and the refugee situation reaches a boiling point in Jordan
On the second day of ‘proximity talks,’ Damascus agrees to let aid into three besieged towns, including Madaya. However, diplomatic efforts have yet to halt fighting in places like Aleppo, where combat is intensifying. Jordan’s king warns that his country has reached a boiling point.
Geneva (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Syria peace talks are in their second official day in Geneva. After yesterday’s first proximity talks between the opposition and UN diplomats, the Syrian government team was expected at the UN headquarters this morning with the opposition following in the afternoon.
In its European headquarters, the United Nations is trying to broker a peace plan to end five years of fighting in Syria, which has killed more than 250,000 and displaced an additional 11 million.
The fact that both sides are participating is seen as positive, but the absence of a Kurdish representative raises questions. Many in fact continue to be sceptical that the talks will have tangible results for civilians.
UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura today tried to press President Bashar Assad's regime to ease the suffering of ordinary Syrians, many of whom are starving. Yesterday, Syria's government agreed "in principle" to allow aid into three besieged towns, including Madaya where 46 people have died of starvation since December.
For their part, representatives from Syrian opposition groups said they had a positive meeting with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura on Monday. Nevertheless, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the main opposition umbrella group, insists that the regime allow humanitarian access to besieged towns, stop the bombardment of civilians and release prisoners.
As diplomatic activity moves slowly in Switzerland, people continue to die on the ground in Syria. Reports from the country indicate that fighting seems to be intensifying, with government troops attacking rebel held positions around Aleppo.
For some observers, without some action to relieve the humanitarian situation, it may be difficult for the UN to move these talks forward to a wider discussion on a ceasefire and a political transition.
Meanwhile, Jordan’s King Abdullah told the BBC that his country is at a "boiling point" and it can no longer bear the burden of Syrian refugees who have crossed into Jordan in their hundreds of thousands seeking refuge. "Sooner or later, I think, the dam is going to burst," he warned, unless the international community offers Amman more help.
Jordan is hosting 635,000 of the 4.6 million Syrians registered as refugees with the United Nations. The government says more than one million other Syrians are in the country, including those who arrived before the uprising erupted in 2011. That represents about 20 per cent of the total.
Schools, hospitals, and jobs in Jordan are under pressure. Although European governments are asking Jordanian authorities to create employment opportunities for refugees, the reality is complex and requires investment and funds not only for refugees, but also for Jordanians.
In Jordan, only 1 per cent of Syrian refugees now have work permits, and matters are bound to get worse.