Volume. 11918

Syria starts evacuating civilians from center of Homs
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c_330_235_16777215_0___images_stories_edim_01_Syria99(24).jpgSyria began evacuating civilians from a besieged area of Homs on Friday while Russia announced that Syria's warring parties had agreed to a three-day ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid in to those who remain.
According to Reuters, the first bus carrying 11 weary-looking evacuees, accompanied by Syrian Arab Red Crescent officials, arrived at a meeting point outside Homs as government soldiers stood by. 
Russia said a three-day ceasefire had been agreed in Homs, which was one of the first cities to erupt in protest against President Bashar al-Assad nearly three years ago and where street after street has been destroyed in heavy fighting between Assad's forces and rebels seeking his overthrow.
"It is foreseen that all children, women, men under age 55, as well as wounded people, can leave the combat zone without obstacle," Russia's Foreign Ministry said.
It said Syrian authorities had announced that evacuees would be provided with medical treatment and shelter. "Those residents of Old Homs who prefer to remain will be sent the necessary humanitarian aid," the ministry said.
Moscow hailed the Homs deal as a "landmark agreement".
Homs governor Talal al-Barazi said earlier that the first group of evacuees from Homs would include children under 15, men over 55, and women. He said reception centers had been set up to receive and treat people leaving the old city, although those evacuated were free to go wherever they liked.
"We are ready today to receive any number, even it exceeds 400, but according to the United Nations yesterday the expected number is 200, or it could be lower," he told Syrian television.
"We hope this first step will succeed and will continue tomorrow and after tomorrow and so on to ensure safe exit to all civilians who want to leave the old city."
"The atmosphere is positive," Barazi added.
The Homs deal is potentially the first modest result to emerge from deadlocked peace talks in Geneva. The first face-to-face negotiations between Syria's warring sides began in the Swiss city two weeks ago and are due to resume on Monday.
Humanitarian access to Homs had been the first item on the agenda a fortnight ago, intended to be a relatively consensual issue which could build momentum to address the far more intractable political divide between Assad and his foes.

Government confirms it will attend second round of talks
Meanwhile, State news agency SANA cited Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Friday confirming the government would attend the second round of talks and demand a discussion "article by article" of the 2012 Geneva Communique.
"Restoring peace and stability throughout the Syrian Arab Republic requires putting an end to terrorism and violence, as is said in the Geneva communiques," Mekdad said.

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