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Deadlocks Remain as Syria Talks Break For Day

  • Lisa Schlein

U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi addresses a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Jan. 28, 2014.

U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi addresses a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Jan. 28, 2014.

Syrian peace negotiations broke off earlier than planned Tuesday amid mutual accusations and what the opposition delegation said were serious differences over the goal of the talks.

United Nations mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said the talks remain deadlocked on crucial political and humanitarian issues

Unlike previous days, Syrian government and opposition delegates held only one morning session.Brahimi said it was his decision to call off the afternoon meeting. He said that the two sides intend to continue discussions until Friday as originally planned.

“So, nobody is walking out," he said. "Nobody is running away…We have discussed quite a number of things. So, you know, we have not achieved any breakthrough. But, we are still at it and this is good enough as far as I’m concerned.”

It has taken the United Nations, United States, Russia and the European Union many months to get the Syrian government and rebels to come to the negotiating table.

Although the two sides disagree on how to achieve peace for their war-torn country, they continue to sit at the same table.

Brahimi said the talks are not easy and he decided to cancel the Tuesday afternoon session so the parties could better prepare for Wednesday’s meeting.

During the morning session, he says the opposition presented its vision on how to implement the Geneva 1 Declaration, which was agreed to in June 2012. He sais the government did not present its view.

The Geneva 1 Declaration calls for the establishment of a transitional government in Syria.

The rebels consider Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be illegitimate and do not want him included in a future transfer of power. Government representatives reject attempts to remove the Syrian president.

Besides the political impasse, Brahimi said no agreement has been reached on the critical issue of bringing desperately needed aid to the besieged people of Homs.

“The convoy is ready and still waiting to enter," he said. "The authorization has not been given yet. We have not given up on that. I am afraid that is all I can say for the moment.”

World Food Program spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs said WFP has trucks on standby to deliver food for trapped families in Homs if access is granted. She said humanitarian deliveries to the old city have been impossible since the siege of the city began over one year ago.

“Once all parties on the ground allow the interagency convoy to proceed, WFP will deliver 500 family rations, 500 bags of wheat flour, enough for 2,500 people for one month,” she said.

Byrs said WFP also plans to send 100 boxes of a specialized nutrition product, which helps to treat stunting and acute malnutrition in children.

Besides the critical situation in Homs, she said WFP is increasingly concerned about hundreds of thousands of people living in hard-to-reach areas across Syria with no access to food assistance.

An opposition spokesman said the SNC is willing to lift a siege on three pro-government villages in the north of the country as part of a wider agreement to relieve besieged towns on both sides.

But Louay al-Safi said Assad's government has not agreed to lift the siege on the rebel-held Old City of Homs, seen as crucial for the success of any deal.

The governor of Homs province (Talal Barrazi) said Tuesday a United Nations official is contacting opposition fighters in besieged neighborhoods of the city to allow the evacuation of civilians.

Syria's conflict began in March 2011 as peaceful protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad before spiraling into a civil war that the U.N. says has killed well over 100,000 people and forced nearly 9 million from their homes.