Pope Francis has sent a letter to Syrian Regime President Bashar Al-Assad expressing his “profound concern” regarding the humanitarian situation in Syria.
The Pope’s senior advisor Cardinal Peter Turkson delivered the letter to Al-Assad by hand during a meeting held in Damascus attended by the Vatican’s ambassador to Syria.
In the correspondence, the Pope called on Al-Assad to protect civilians and end the humanitarian crisis mainly in the province of Idlib, expressing his “profound concern” for citizens there.
In a statement Al-Assad’s office said the meeting focused on political efforts to end the crisis with the Syrian president laying the blame on foreign powers who have been supporting opposition groups.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when Al-Assad’s regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests. The war has killed more than 560,000 people, the vast majority by regime-allied forces. The Al-Assad government has used chemical weapons against civilians on scores of occasions, with tens of thousands in prison facing torture and execution. Despite the regime calling for refugees to return to the country, over one million people are still listed as wanted on government databases, with those Syrians who supported the opposition fearing state reprisals.