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07-09-2012 | Middle East

ICRC President's Syria visit ends amid relentless fighting


President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, has just returned from a three-day visit to Syria during which he held talks with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the ministers of foreign affairs, the interior, health and national reconciliation. Mr Maurer also visited areas affected by the fighting in Rural Damascus to witness at first hand how civilians are coping in a context of extreme violence.

"We saw a lot of people injured, health points with insufficient medicine, with few staff to attend a lot of patients...apartment buildings destroyed or burnt...children under shock from the violence going on - all consequences of an armed conflict unfolding in front of you,"said Mr Maurer.

Mr Maurer said the meeting with President Assad was very factual and focused on humanitarian issues: "I mentioned the obstacles to the work of ICRC, the problem of bringing medicine and medical equipment into the country to distribute it all over the country and to those places most in need and we discussed issues of visiting prisons and the protection of internally displaced people."

The ICRC is in regular contact with the Syrian authorities and opposition groups in Syria and abroad on issues relating to compliance with international humanitarian law, the conduct of hostilities on the ground and the protection of civilians and detainees.

The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been working together to meet the most pressing needs. Both organizations must endeavour to find ways of enhancing their work in the field. The ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent will continue to spare no effort to bring help to those who need it.

"I left Syria and the meeting with President Assad with several commitments to improve on medical delivery, on access of the ICRC and increasing the scope of our operations. I hope the first positive signs of these commitments will materialise in the next few days and I hope within the next few weeks we see improvements."

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