Brahimi says Syria talks not making much progress but hopes for take-off
Spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition Louay Safi (R) arrives with an opposition delegation member Abdel Hamid Stayfo (L) to attend a meeting during the second round 'Geneva II' peace talks at the United Nations on Feb 11. AFP photoInternational mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said on Tuesday that peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition are not making much progress.
"The beginning of this week is as laborious as it was in the first week. We are not making much progress," he told a news conference in Geneva after a joint meeting of the two sides.
"Of course for it to really take off we need cooperation from both sides here and a lot of support from the outside."
Brahimi, who meets senior Russian and U.S. officials in Geneva on Friday, said he planned to report to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council within the next few weeks.
Syria's government delegation said no agenda had been agreed for peace talks in Geneva, blaming the opposition's refusal to discuss the issue of "terrorism".
"Another lost day because the representatives of the coalition insisted that terrorism in Syria does not exist and did not want to discuss it," said Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad after a meeting with international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi on the second day of talks.
Homs evacuation suspended for day over 'logistics': governor
An operation to evacuate civilians from besieged rebel-held areas of Syria's third city Homs was suspended for a day on Tuesday because of "logistical problems," the provincial governor told AFP.
"Today, operations didn't take place for logistical and technical reasons," Homs governor Talal Barazi said, without elaborating.
"The evacuation of civilians and delivery of food aid will continue tomorrow (Wednesday) morning," he added.
The Syrian Red Crescent has so far helped evacuate around 1,200 people trapped in rebel-held areas of the war-ravaged central city, and delivered desperately-needed food and medicine.
The work was made possible by a tenuous three-day truce, which was extended for another 72 hours on Feb .11 despite multiple violations, including shelling that killed 14 people and fire directed at aid convoys.
The humanitarian operation has been welcomed internationally, while U.N. officials and agencies have urged that the model be extended to other areas in Syria.
"I hope that those negotiating in Geneva agree to allow the sustained delivery of aid to the 250,000 people in besieged communities in Syria and all those who are in desperate need across Syria," said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.
Russia slams UN draft on Syria
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Feb. 11 that a draft of a new United Nations humanitarian resolution on Syria was unacceptable because it was "absolutely one-sided."
"The ideas that were shared with us by those initiating this process... are absolutely unacceptable and contain an ultimatum for the government, that if they don't solve all this in two weeks then we automatically introduce sanctions," Lavrov said in Moscow.
"Instead of engaging in everyday, meticulous work to resolve problems that block deliveries of humanitarian aid, they see a new resolution as some kind of simplistic solution," he said.
U.N. diplomats have tried to persuade Russia to back a new resolution, drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, which "demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, immediately end the sieges of the Old City of Homs."
But Lavrov said focusing on one city and the government's role was "absolutely one-sided and detached from the facts." "It's as if there are no witness accounts, even from the humanitarian agencies, that the militant groups are the main impediments to the humanitarian operation in Homs and in delivering humanitarian aid to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp," he said.
He added that other Syrian cities like Zahra and Al Hasakah also need to be unblocked, and that the U.N. needed to focus more on the spread of terrorism in the war-torn country.