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Syria: ICRC president in Damascus

03-09-2012 News Release 12/176

Geneva/Damascus (ICRC) – The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, arrives today in Syria for a three-day visit, the first since he took up his duties as president on 1 July.

During his visit, Mr Maurer will meet with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, the minister of foreign affairs and expatriates, Walid Muallem, the minister of the interior, General Mohamad Ibrahim Al Shaar, the minister of health, Saad Abdel Salam Al-Nayef, and the minister of State for national reconciliation, Ali Haidar, to discuss pressing humanitarian issues.

"At a time when more and more civilians are being exposed to extreme violence, it is of the utmost importance that we and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent succeed in significantly scaling up our humanitarian response," said Mr Maurer. "It is vital that we build on what has already been achieved on the ground."

Talks will mainly tackle the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and the difficulties faced by the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent as they attempt to reach people affected by the armed conflict. The ICRC is also in regular contact with opposition groups both in Syria and abroad.

"An adequate humanitarian response is required to keep pace with needs, which have been growing exponentially," said Mr Maurer. "During my visit, I also intend to follow up on points agreed last April, such as expanded access to persons detained in Syria and the imperative necessity of helping civilians affected by hostilities."

The ICRC president will also meet with Dr Abdel Rahman Attar, the president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC's main partner organization in the country. Despite very difficult working conditions, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have provided nearly 180,000 people with food and other essentials in and around Damascus and in Aleppo, Homs and elsewhere in the country since mid-July. Since the beginning of the year, the two organizations have distributed relief items to over 800,000 people, most of them displaced, and helped ensure that over one million people have enough clean water.

For further information, please contact:
Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 993 700 847 or +963 11 331 0476
Cecilia Goin, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 930 177 746
Hicham Hassan, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 41 or +41 79 536 92 57
Carla Haddad Mardini, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26