DAMASCUS, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) arrived in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Monday for talks with top officials on the deteriorating humanitarian situation as the government pledged there was nothing hindering the return of the displaced Syrians to their homes.
ICRC Chief Peter Maurer arrived in Damascus evening for a three- day visit, during which he will be meeting with President Bashar al-Assad, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Minister of health Salam Al-Nayef among other high-level officials.
Maurer will also meet with the Minister of National Reconciliation Ali Haidar and the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) Abul-Rahman al-Attar, sources told Xinhua.
Talks will mainly focus on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and the difficulties faced by the ICRC and the SARC as they try to reach people affected by the armed conflict, according to the ICRC.
The spiraling violence across Syria has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes to safer areas, mostly in the capital Damascus. Some even have fled the country to neighboring states.
A recent statement issued by the UN said that two and a half million people are now estimated to have been affected by the crisis and in need of help. The new tally said over one million have been internally displaced. More than 200,000 have crossed into neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
Most of the displaced Syrians are staying with their relatives in Damascus or have sought refuge in public schools and parks.
Despite difficult working conditions, the ICRC and the SARC have provided nearly 180,000 people with food and other essentials in and around Damascus as well as in Aleppo, Homs and other unrest- hit regions since mid-July.
Since the beginning of the year, the two organizations have distributed relief items to more than 800,000 people, most of them displaced, and ensured that more than one million people have sufficient clean water.
During a press conference held Monday in Damascus, Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said there is nothing that could stymie the return of the displaced Syrians to their homes, adding that they could come back anytime and should fear nothing.
He said that his government didn't and will never push anyone to escape outside the country only to live in a tent.
Separately, al-Zoubi extended a welcome to veteran troubleshooter Lakhdar Brahimi, who was appointed as the new UN- Arab League envoy to Syria, stressing that Syria will assist him in his job to solve the crisis and try its best to avoid getting into a deadlock as it happened with his predecessor Kofi Annan.
"I think that the success of Brahimi's mission depends on the commitment of certain countries like Qatar, Saudi and Turkey, to immediately stop sending arms (to the rebels) and to close their borders in the face of the foreign fighters."
He said that "Syria has a real interest in the success of this plan and Syria has a true desire and will to support Brahimi's mission."
Al-Zoubi then called on the opposition forces to make a national assessment and brace itself for a national dialogue.
"We will accept what the ballot boxes say and we appeal to everyone to lay down your weapons and let us embark on a national dialogue and resort to the ballot boxes," al-Zoubi said.
However, he made it abundantly clear that there will be no dialogue with the presence of weapons in the hands of the " terrorists," since the precondition of a dialogue is security and stability.
He said the Syrian army is committed to restoring peace and stability across Syria and this is "non-negotiable."