(DAMASCUS, Syria) — Millions of Syrians living abroad have also been affected by the two-year conflict going on in their homeland.
Since the violence started, the expatriates have been unable to have their passports renewed, preventing them from international travel or visa applications.
Damascus has told Syrians abroad to come back and do the necessary paperwork although many fear they will either be arrested by the government or caught up in the warfare being waged by government and rebel forces.
Now, in what appears to be a major concession by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, those expatriates with expired passports will have them automatically renewed, thanks to the efforts of the opposition umbrella group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
Moaz Khatib, the leader of the coalition, won the concession from al-Assad as a precondition of his group meeting with government officials in an effort to end the conflict that has cost 70,000 lives over the past two years.
Khatib is also demanding that al-Assad free tens of thousands of prisoners in Syrian jails and is awaiting a response.
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Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
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