DAMASCUS: The evacuation of civilians from besieged areas of Homs City in Syria was set to resume on Wednesday, as peace talks in Switzerland between the country’s warring sides appeared deadlocked.
On Tuesday, Homs governor Talal Barazi announced evacuation and aid delivery operations would be suspended for a day over “logistical difficulties.”
And the United Nations (UN) expressed concern about the fate of hundreds of boys and men held for questioning by Syrian authorities after being evacuated.
More than 1,000 men, women and children have been evacuated from besieged rebel-held parts of Homs since Friday, many fragile and malnourished after surviving for more than 18 months on dwindling food supplies.
“There are children there, and this is very heartbreaking, that this is the first time they see a banana,” said Syrian Red Crescent head of operations Khaled Erksoussi.
“Our psychological support teams are there to try to deal with the cases as they come out, but eventually the teams themselves will need psychological care because the situation is very emotional and passionate.”
He said the Red Crescent was on standby to resume work on Wednesday after a meeting between Barazi and UN representatives.
“We are expecting that we’ll be able to get some more food material in and hoping to get some more people out,” he said.
In Geneva, meanwhile, talks were due to resume between regime and opposition delegations after a second day of meetings that left even UN-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi downbeat.
“We are not making much progress,” he told reporters after chairing a face-to-face session with both sides.
The opposition delegation has already warned it will not attend a third round of talks if the current discussions do not produce real progress.
And in Damascus on Tuesday, Syria’s National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar said he expected the talks “under the current circumstances, will end in failure.”
The two sides disagree fundamentally on the purpose of the meetings, with the opposition insistent on the formation of a transitional government without President Bashar al-Assad.
The regime says Assad’s future is non-negotiable and that the talks must focus on halting “terrorism,” its term for those who oppose it.
The regime delegation also slammed the opposition for failing to acknowledge “terrorism” in Syria, including the killing of more than 40 people, half of them civilians, in an Alawite village.