UN, Syria reach deal for civilians to leave Homs

DAMASCUS (AFP) - The United Nations and Syria have reached a deal to allow aid into besieged areas of Homs and give civilians safe passage out, state news agency SANA said on Thursday.

"Homs governor Talal al-Barazi and UN resident coordinator Yaacoub El Hillo have reached an agreement securing the exit of innocent civilians from the Old City (of Homs) and the entrance of humanitarian assistance for civilians who choose to stay," it reported.

The statement came days after regime and opposition representatives meeting for peace talks in Geneva discussed the situation in the besieged districts of the central city.

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had announced that Damascus agreed to allow women and children out, though the opposition and the regime then accused each other of blocking any further progress.

There had been no deal on the exit of men, or the entry of much-needed aid into the city, where activists say some 3,000 people have been surviving on little more than olives for many weeks.

According to SANA, "the relevant Syrian authorities will implement the deal by providing the necessary humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter and medical aid for innocent civilians who leave" the besieged districts.

The agency added that "food, medicine and other assistance will be sent in for civilians who choose to stay" in the neighbourhoods.

The Old City districts of central Homs have also suffered near-daily shelling ever since the army blockaded them in June 2012.

Mr Abu Ziad, an activist in a besieged area, told AFP via the Internet that "the families are ready to leave. Many of them want to leave".