Homs evacuations resume as Syria peace talks falter
12 February 2014, 21:21
The evacuation of civilians and delivery of aid to besieged rebel-held areas of Syria's third city Homs resumed on Wednesday, as peace talks in Geneva struggled to make headway. Government and opposition delegations met face to face on day three of the second round of talks in Switzerland city after UN-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi admitted 'we are not making much progress'.
And the talks had no effect whatsoever on the bloodshed on the ground, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting an average daily death toll of 236 people since the launch of their first round on January 22, the highest since the uprising erupted nearly three years ago.
A total of 217 civilians, who wanted to escape more than 18 months of tight army blockade, were evacuated from the rebel enclave on Wednesday, after the relief operation was suspended the previous day, provincial governor Talal al-Barazi told AFP.
'The operation went well and smoothly,' Barazi said.
The evacuations bring the total number of people given safe passage out since Friday to more than 1,400.
They came hours after 190 food parcels and 4,700 kilogrammes (10,340 pounds) of flour were taken into the besieged rebel enclave, the Syrian Red Crescent's head of operations Khaled Erksoussi said.
The Red Crescent tweeted pictures of its staff loading sacks of aid onto flat-bed trucks for delivery to civilians who have chosen to remain inside the war-battered enclave.
According to the World Food Programme, 310 food parcels and 1.5 tons of flour have been distributed since Friday.
Red Crescent staff backed by UN agencies began evacuating some of the estimated 3,000 civilians trapped in besieged areas on Friday under a UN-brokered humanitarian truce between the government and the rebels.
Meanwhile in Geneva, there were signs that Damascus ally Moscow, which is cosponsoring the talks with Washington, aimed to play a greater role in trying to break the deadlock as the second round dragged on into a third day.
The opposition warned it would not attend a third round of talks if no progress was made.
But Syria's National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar warned on Tuesday that the talks 'under the current circumstances, will end in failure.'
The opposition insists on the formation of a transitional government without President Bashar al-Assad.
But the government says Assad's future is non-negotiable and that the talks must focus instead on halting 'terrorism' by the rebels.
Geneva-2: Syrian opposition presents its plan of Syrian settlement
Syria's opposition has presented a 22-point document on the settlement of the conflict, a member of the National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (NCORF), Louay Safi, said on Wednesday.
'We've presented the document in order to achieve the political settlement of the crisis. A transition governing body is indispensable for this purpose,' Safi said.
'The document includes provisions on ceasefire, the exchange of prisoners etc,' the opposition member said, adding that the government's delegation had not responded yet.
Geneva peace talks must discuss terrorism first - Syria gov't
The Syrian government delegation to peace talks in Geneva said on Wednesday that negotiations must focus first on fighting terrorism before any other issue was discussed, state media reported.
Syria TV said the delegation also rejected parallel-track talks that would allow a simultaneous discussion of the opposition's priority of a transitional government, calling the proposal a 'fruitless' idea.
Brahimi insists on parallel discussions on terrorism, transition provisional body
UN/LAS Special Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi will insist the problems of terrorism and a transition provisional body be discussed in parallel at the inter-Syrian talks, a well-informed diplomatic source told a Russian news agency.
At the moment there is an opportunity to make a start, the source said.
On Tuesday, February 11, Brahimi said these were very important issues.
'Violence and terrorism are what the Syrian people wants to put an end to and it is very important,' he said, adding 'This can't be done without reaching agreement what steps should be taken for the future of the country.'
Voice of Russia, TASS, Interfax, Reuters
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