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Syrian opposition warns of demographic change in Homs and Hama

Syrian civilians and opposition forces wait to be evacuated from Al-Waer district of Homs, Syria on 15 May 2017 [Judy Arash/Anadolu Agency ]
Syrian civilians and opposition forces wait to be evacuated from Al-Waer district of Homs, Syria on 15 May 2017 [Judy Arash/Anadolu Agency ]

The Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad has been accused of planning demographic change in Homs and Hama through mass displacement of local residents. The accusation was made on Friday by Colonel Mohammad Al-Shamali, a member of the Syrian opposition delegation at the Geneva negotiations, Anadolu has reported. The areas around the two cities are deemed to be in need of "tension reduction".

"This regime is planning to force the liberated areas to accept reconciliation and to exclude the militants and their families, which means taking out the majority within this plan," said Al-Shamali. "This displacement has the purpose of a demographic change."

He confirmed that the opposition submitted an official memorandum in this regard to the international envoy, Staffan de Mistura, at the last Geneva meeting held in May. During the Geneva negotiations, the member of the Syrian opposition delegation stressed that the regime will not be able to control the region easily.

"Russia has not put enough pressure on the regime to ensure the cessation of escalation in the areas of tension reduction," Al-Shamali pointed out. "The Russians always take part in the agreements but do not adhere to them, including the ceasefire agreement at the end of last year which Moscow signed but did not abide by." According to the opposition official, by not adhering to its commitments, Russia is saying to the regime, "We bring the opposition to the negotiations, and you do what you want in the field." This is the only explanation, he added.

"The towns that are under opposition control in the area targeted for displacement are Al-Rastan, Talbiseh, Houla and other villages that represent a geographical extension of the northern countryside of Homs and administrative extension of Hama," he explained. "The latter includes Talaf, Aqrab, Hirbnafsah and Khirbet Al-Jami."

The "tension reduction zones" are part of an agreement signed by Assad allies Russia and Iran with Turkey, in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, to reduce the escalation in four Syrian regions. The regime in Damascus said that it supports the agreement, but added that it will continue to fight against what it described as "terrorist" groups across the country.

 

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