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First Round of Syria Peace Talks Ends in Geneva

The first round of peace talks between Syria's warring sides has ended with little progress, but did lay a foundation for future negotiations expected next month.

U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi described the week of talks in Geneva Friday as "a modest beginning" to build on. He explained that "gaps between the sides remain wide" on everything from how to end the fighting, to how to get humanitarian aid into besieged areas.

Brahimi announced the next round of negotiations would probably begin February 10, pending agreement from the Syrian government. But Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said the government delegation would not immediately commit to return for more talks without input from President Bashar al-Assad.



"He will first read our reports about what's happened this week and accordingly he will discuss with us, the government also, and then the decision will be taken."



The warring parties agreed to use a 2012 communique as the basis for a road map to peace.

But the government dismissed the opposition's demand for a new governing body without Mr. Assad and made clear it wanted to start by addressing terrorism.



Foreign Minister Moallem blamed a lack of progress at the talks on U.S. interference.

There has also been little advancement on bringing aid to the hardest-hit areas of Syria's civil war, an issue where many thought common ground could be found.

Brahimi said he was "very, very disappointed" the U.N. has not been able to deliver aid to the besieged, rebel-held city of Homs, where many are said to be starving.

Valerie Amos, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said Friday she was "deeply frustrated" that the talks concluded without an agreement on pauses to bring relief aid into blockaded areas.

Syria's conflict began in March 2011 as peaceful protests against the government before spiraling into a civil war that the U.N. says has killed more than 100,000 people and forced nearly 9 million from their homes.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is calling on Syria to speed up efforts to give up its chemical weapons for destruction.

Speaking in Germany Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry said "there is no legitimate reason" for the delays in delivering and destroying the weapons.

Kerry called on Mr. Assad and Syria to "live up to its obligations," or the U.S. will consider further steps, noting that "all options are on the table."

Before Damascus agreed to surrender its chemical weapons, the U.S. had threatened limited air strikes on targets belonging to the Syrian government, which Washington blamed for a deadly chemical attack.

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