Russia says three-day Homs ceasefire agreed

MOSCOW Fri Feb 7, 2014 5:08pm IST

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday that a three-day ceasefire has been agreed so civilians can evacuate the Syrian city of Homs and supplies of humanitarian aid reach those who choose to remain, as part of what it called a "landmark" deal.

"The result of difficult, multi-day negotiations ... is an agreement to cease fire for three days and provide humanitarian support to the residents of the Old City of Homs," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Russian embassy in Damascus "played a energetic role" in what the ministry said was an agreement reached in talks between the local governor and a regional U.N. humanitarian coordinator, Yacoub al Helou.

"It is foreseen that all children, women, men under age 55, as well as wounded people, can leave the combat zone without obstacle," it said, and humanitarian aid will be sent to those who prefer to stay put.

Russia, the Syrian government's most powerful diplomatic backer in the three-year-old conflict, said the agreement should improve the atmosphere for peace talks that begin on Monday in Geneva and set "a good example for the solution of other urgent humanitarian problems" in Syria.

Separately, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the agreement justified Russia's opposition to any Western and Arab effort to push for a U.N. Security Council resolution on humanitarian aid in Syria.

"This confirms that the humanitarian problems of the Syrian population can be solved through concrete steps, not the adoption by the U.N. Security Council of politicised resolutions," he said on Twitter.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Larry King)

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