Aid in focus as Syria foes hold first talks


GENEVA: Syria’s regime and opposition on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) discussed sending aid to besieged residents in the embattled city of Homs as United Nations (US)-sponsored peace talks inched forward in Geneva.

In what mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said was a “good beginning,” the two sides touched on a key humanitarian issue as they held their first face-to-face talks at the UN’s European headquarters.

Brahimi said they had discussed at length the situation in Homs, where hundreds of families in the Old City are living under siege with near-daily shelling and the barest of supplies.

“We hope that ultimately some convoy of aid, goods, both food and non-food items and some medical supplies will be allowed to go into the Old City” as early as Sunday or Monday, Brahimi said.

He said talks would continue on Sunday and touch an another key issue—trying to free some of the thousands of people being held in Syrian jails or kidnapped.

“We haven’t achieved much but we are continuing,” Brahimi said. “If we achieve success on Homs we hope that this will be the beginning.”

Opposition spokesman Louay Safi said a deal on Homs was like a “trial balloon” to test the regime.

“If the regime does not open humanitarian corridors for people who are starving to death, this means that the regime wants a military solution and not a political solution,” he said.

After a false start on the first day of discussions, the two sides agreed to sit in the same room on Saturday, with both delegations addressing Brahimi instead of each other.



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