Brahimi expected "no miracle" at Syria peace talks

UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi reacts during a press conference at the United Nations Offices in Geneva on January 26, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Fabrice Coffrini)

Published Monday, January 27, 2014

Updated 7:15 pm: International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said on Monday that the Syrian parties were still discussing how women and children can leave the Old City of Homs, but that there had been no decision on allowing access for an aid convoy into the besieged city.

Brahimi, addressing a news conference after meeting both sides, said that there was an apparent will to continue the negotiations, but he never expected any miracle to end the nearly three-year war.

"I told you yesterday that there was an agreement by the government that women and children can come out of Old City in Homs, I think they still discussing how that can be done. I think that the government is willing to make it happen, but it is not easy because there are snipers and there are all sorts of problems," Brahimi said.

He added: "Unfortunately there is no agreement on a ceasefire or the alleviation of the level of violence practiced in Syria."

The Syrian peace talks were deadlocked after a session Monday aimed at tackling the explosive issue of a transfer of power, delegation sources from the warring sides said.

The sources said the talks had broken up with no progress after the Syrian government delegation set out a statement of principles aimed at preserving state institutions and stopping the threat from "terrorist" groups.

The opposition rejected the statement, saying talks needed to focus on a political transition, and UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi ended the session, the sources said.

"The discussions were not constructive today because of the regime's strategy to deflect... (and) change the subject by talking of terrorism," Rima Fleihan, a member of the opposition National Coalition's delegation, told reporters.

A source close to the government delegation told AFP the opposition had rejected discussion of anything other than the creation of a transitional government.

"The government delegation presented a statement on essential principles to save Syria, the State and its people from extremist terrorism," the source said.

"As soon as it finished the Coalition rejected this statement and demanded that we talk only of a transitional body. Mr Brahimi then adjourned the session," the source said.

Monday marked the third day of UN-sponsored talks between the two sides in Geneva and the first expected to deal with political issues.

The opposition says Assad must leave power and a transitional government be formed based on an agreement reached during a first peace conference in Geneva in 2012.

The government says Assad's role is not up for debate at this conference – dubbed Geneva II – and denies that the initial Geneva deal requires him to go.

(Reuters, AFP)

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