A cornerstone for peace?

A cornerstone for peace?

Syria is far from peace. Hopes now rest on new negotiations that have begun in Kazakhstan. Russia and Turkey had invited to the meeting. DRK Secretary General Reuter was on site in Syria.

Interviewer: They were in Damascus and Homs. What is the situation there? How did you experience the two cities?

Christian Reuter (Secretary General of the German Red Cross): The picture that is shown in the media of Syria is clearly different from what it really is. We should see it in a more differentiated way than we imagine. There are vast swaths of land in Syria where it is perfectly possible to move about "normally". When you travel to Homs via Damascus, you have the feeling that you are traveling in a relatively safe country. This is also the truth.

In the same way, it is the truth that in vast areas such as around Aleppo, war is raging with varying intensity. So the picture is quite nuanced, but one thing is clear: After six years of civil war, there are major humanitarian emergencies.

Interviewer: How can it be that some neighborhoods are completely destroyed and a few kilometers away everyday life goes on as normal and the people there are almost unaffected?
Reuter: This is not just the case a few kilometers away. Let's look at Homs, one of Syria's former largest cities with two million inhabitants. There is a large urban area there. You can experience a "normal" city there. However, if you walk down one of the main streets, which is 20 meters away in the direction of the old city, you will find widespread destruction. The old city was bombed across the board. Reminiscent of Cologne at the end of World War II.

Of course, this results from the fact that certain districts – in this case in Homs or Aleppo – are under siege. Besieged means that government forces are enclosing certain areas. Conversely, there are also towns and areas in Syria where government troops are trapped. As is usual in a siege, those under siege are systematically bombed. In this respect, the situation arises that if you only cross one road, everything can be different.

Interviewer: A ceasefire was agreed at the end of December. The United Nations complains that aid supplies are not reaching the people despite the cease-fire. Have you also observed that?
Reuter: Yes. The German Red Cross, through its sister organization the Syrian Red Crescent, provides basic food aid to some five million people each month. The ceasefire is one thing. The other is the right life. There are dozens of groups fighting among themselves and against each other. Just because a ceasefire has been agreed doesn't mean you can move around the country normally again. We are trying to solve this problem with local negotiations. Either we drive in a convoy through the country or we try to get special permits to be allowed to give help permanently.
Interviewer: Syria talks take place in Kazakhstan since yesterday. Did the people they met have hope that the talks would yield something, or are they now disillusioned after so many failed attempts?
Reuter: The people here are tired after six difficult years. They simply want peace. Of course they know about the talks in Kazakhstan, but the belief that this will actually resolve the conflict is relatively low. At the moment, many people are focused on managing and ensuring their daily survival.
our siteWhat are your expectations?

Reuter: My expectation is that processes of truce will continue to deepen. That people and different groups get back into conversation with each other and that there is at least a perspective of further talks that can be a cornerstone for a possible peaceful order. But I have to say that I don't see peace talks with a successful end – as we might imagine them in Central Europe.

The interview was conducted by Verena Troster.

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