UN backs Syria opposition call for prisoner release

Staffan de Mistura supports opposition demand for release of abductees

UN backs Syria opposition call for prisoner release

World Bulletin / News Desk

The UN’s special envoy for Syria has welcomed the “legitimate” demand by the opposition for the release of prisoners held by the regime.

More than 65,000 people, mostly civilians, have been forcibly abducted in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. The vast majority of abductees were seized by the government.

The opposition High Negotiations Committee has called for the release of detainees, especially women and children, held by the Syrian government and has submitted a list of more than 170 political prisoners.

“Those demands are legitimate,” Staffan de Mistura said in an interview with Anadolu Agency at the UN's offices in Geneva on Thursday. “There are thousands of people who are, according to opposition records, prisoners and [have been] prisoners for a long time, including women and children.”

De Mistura, who was appointed in July 2014 to find a resolution to the civil war, said he had raised the prisoner issue several times with the Syrian government.

“We have the list of them,” he said, adding that the release of prisoners would be “very much an important point” in UN-brokered talks between opposition and regime delegates due to resume on Monday.

Turning to another central issue - the provision of humanitarian aid to besieged towns and villages - de Mistura said the UN failed to reach any besieged areas last year but since the cessation of hostilities came into force on Feb. 27, 10 of the 18 besieged areas had been relieved.

“The cessation of hostilities certainly helped otherwise we would not have reached 135,000 people [and] 10 out of 18 besieged areas have been reached,” he said.

On Wednesday, the UN said more than 500 trucks had delivered aid to 238,485 people.

However, the Italian career diplomat noted that around 200,000 people were still living under siege conditions in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria. These and other remaining besieged areas would be prioritized for relief once a “substantial” agreement is reached at the Geneva negotiations, he added.

“Of the five years of conflict, some of these areas have been besieged for more than three years… that is why we will continue to pushing for that, because we see that some results have been taking place but it is not enough,” he said.

Last Mod: 11 Mart 2016, 13:59
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