UN-sponsored Syria peace talks resume in Geneva


UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations-sponsored talks between the Syrian government and opposition aiming at ending the three-year civil war resumed in Geneva on Monday, 10 days after a first round concluded with little progress, a UN spokesman told reporters here.

“The second round of the intra-Syrian talks started this morning in Geneva,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said at a daily news briefing here, adding that UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi met with the delegation of the Syrian opposition headed by its chief negotiator, Hedi Albahra, and subsequently with the Syrian government delegation led by its chief negotiator Bashar al Ja’fari, who is Syria’s permanent representative to the United Nations.

“The discussions centered on the agenda of the second round of the talks, chiefly questions relating to the cessation of violence and terrorism and the establishment of a transitional governing body in accordance with the Geneva Communique of 30 June 2012,” Nesirky said.

The Syria peace talks resumed as an already-violated ceasefire to allow humanitarian access to a city cut off by siege for nearly two years was extended for another three days.

The basis of the talks is full implementation of an action plan adopted in the Geneva Communique of 2012, the first international conference on the conflict, calling for a transitional government to lead to free and fair elections to end a war in which more than 100,000 people have been reportedly killed and nearly 9 million others driven from their homes since the conflict erupted in March 2011.

A major issue of the first round, which ended on Jan. 31 with Brahimi reporting “no progress to speak of,” was access to humanitarian aid for 1.6 million Syrians, some of whom have been trapped for almost two years without regular food supplies.

Some progress emerged last week when agreement was reached on a three-day ceasefire to allow people out and aid into the Old City of Homs, where 2,500 Syrians have been trapped without outside humanitarian aid for nearly two years in what has become an iconic symbol of the suffering endured by civilians in the war’s relentless bombardments and sieges.

But the “humanitarian pause” had barely begun with the evacuation of 83 people on Friday when sniper and other fire temporarily interrupted the process. This continued throughout the weekend, deliberately targeting UN and Syrian Red Crescent workers and leading to the deaths of 11 people even as more than 800 people were eventually evacuated from the Old City and some vital food and medical supplies made their way in. PNA


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