by Ray Fleming

The cries heard from the people of Homs in Syria are heartrending and fully understandable. They are under constant bombardment, have no medicines, food, or water and are fast running out of hope that the outside world will come to their rescue. The callousness of President Assad's regime is shown in the inability of the International Red Cross to reach any agreement with it for the creation of safe corridors to deliver essential food and medical supplies. Almost no one questions the integrity and neutrality of the Red Cross but Assad's Syria does. However, there are welcome signs that after the setback of the Chinese and Russian vetoes on UN action alternative international approaches to giving help to the oppressed Syrian people are being prepared.

In Tunisia today the international “Friends of Syria” coalition is meeting to finalise an action plan that has been in preparation for more than two weeks. The United States, European countries and the Arab League are the principal movers and they have been consulting with the UN, international organisations and, most importantly, with representatives of the Syrian National Council which brings together the various rebel movements opposing Assad in Syria. There is no shortage of resources; the problem is whether humanitarian aid should be separated from political demands for Assad to step down. It should be for the moment; the need is urgent.

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