UN-Arab League envoy says Russia, US pledge to help unblock stalled Syria talks
13 February 2014 – The United Nations/Arab Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said officials from Russia and the United States today promised to keep working with the UN to unblock stalled Syrian peace talks, as food and medical supplies continue to reach people in long-besieged Homs.
Speaking to the press in Geneva after a two hour meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov and US Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Mr. Brahimi said the officials, whose countries initiated the talks, "promised to help here, in their capitals, and elsewhere, to unblock the situation, because we are [still] not making much progress."
The UN-sponsored talks between the Syrian Government and opposition resumed Monday, 10 days after a first round ended with little progress, in efforts to end the civil war, as a ceasefire to allow humanitarian access to the Old City of Homs, cut off by siege for nearly two years, was extended for another three days.
When a reporter suggested that, with the parties stalemated on key issues, the talks can be written off as a failure, Mr. Brahini said: "Failure is always staring at us in the face. As far the United Nations is concerned, we will certainly not leave one stone unturned if there is a possibility to move forward…Syria is in a dark tunnel, and these attempts are the point of light at the end of the tunnel.
The basis of the talks is full implementation of an action plan adopted in the so-called Geneva Communiqué of 2012, the first international conference on the conflict, calling for a transitional government to lead to free and fair elections to end fighting in which well over 100,000 people have been killed and nearly 9 million others driven from their homes since the conflict erupted between President Bashar al-Assad and various groups seeking his ouster nearly three years ago.
While no new confidence-building measures were being discussed between the parties, Mr. Brahimi said the UN is "very excited by the positive things happening in Homs", where a third extension in the ceasefire between the warring parties had been announced so that relief workers can provide aid to civilians trapped there.
"But there are also some troubling, frightening things happening," he warned, telling reports that UN humanitarian workers and staff from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Homs had recently come under heavy fire in the city.
"We would like very much for [humanitarian access] to be repeated in other places, but we hope that if we do, it won't take a miracle for our people to get out alive."
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) meanwhile reports that more than 1,370 people have so far been evacuated from Homs since last Friday. Food, medical supplies and essential household and hygiene items have been delivered for 2,500 people in total, with enough food for one month, according to UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky.
"Aid was also delivered to Bloudan in Rural Damascus with food and medicines for 5,000 people, including for people with chronic diseases, in the last two days. Bloudan is only 45 km from Damascus, but it is in a hard-to-reach area because of insecurity, he said, adding that the humanitarian team reported that it took four hours to travel the last 15 kilometres, and more than 20 checkpoints had to be negotiated.
Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, is expected to brief the Security Council later in the afternoon on the situation in Syria.
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