News / Middle East

Syria Peace Talks Hit Another Snag as Homs 'Starves'

  • Smoke rises after what activists describe as barrel bombs are dropped by government forces in Daraya, near Damascus, Jan. 31, 2014.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter holds his weapon as he walks along a damaged street in the besieged area of Homs, Jan. 30, 2014.
  • A man and children sit around a fire in the besieged area of Homs, Jan. 30, 2014.
  • Men walk on the rubble of a damaged mosque in the besieged area of Homs, Jan. 30, 2014.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center shows Syrian men helping a wounded man after a government airstrike in Aleppo, Jan. 29, 2014.
  • A woman stands along a damaged street in the besieged area of Homs, Syria, Jan. 29, 2014. 
  • A man walks past damaged buildings in the besieged area of Homs, Syria, Jan. 29, 2014.
  • A girl and boy are shaken as they stand near a site hit by what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by government forces in Aleppo, Syria, Jan. 29, 2014. 
  • People walk on rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by government forces in Aleppo, Syria, Jan. 29, 2014. 
  • A young girl cries at a site hit by what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by government forces, Aleppo, Syria, Jan. 29, 2014. 

Images from Syria

TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
The United States on Monday demanded that Syria allow aid into the “starving” city of Homs, as talks aimed at ending three years of civil war hit more trouble over the future of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government said women and children could leave the besieged city and that rebels should hand over the names of the men who would remain, but a U.S. State Department spokesman said an evacuation was not an alternative to immediate aid.
“We firmly believe that the Syrian regime must approve the convoys to deliver badly needed humanitarian assistance into the Old City of Homs now,” said spokesman Edgar Vasquez. “The situation is desperate and the people are starving.”
He said the people of Homs must not be forced to leave their homes and split up their families before receiving food and other aid.
The U.N. mediator said he hoped Monday's talks in Geneva could tackle the central issue that divides the two sides - Syria's political future and that of Assad - but both sides immediately adopted entrenched positions.
Syria's government delegation presented a document for negotiation which did not mention a transition of power, Syrian television said.
The government's “declaration of basic principles” said Syrians would choose a political system without “imposed formulas” from abroad, an apparent reference to Western and regional demands that Assad step down.
The opposition, which wants Assad to quit as part of arrangements for a transitional government, immediately rejected the proposal.
“The declaration is outside the framework of Geneva, which centers on creating a transitional governing body. It fails to address the core issue,” the opposition's chief negotiator, Hadi al Bahra, told Reuters.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said he would meet U.N. mediators following the opposition's rejection of the government's proposal. “We are here to discuss terrorism, not a transfer of power,” he said, using the government's blanket term for the revolt that grew out of peaceful protests in 2011.
Strategic location
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Homs, occupying a strategic location in the center of the country, has been a key battleground. Assad's forces retook many of the surrounding areas last year, leaving rebels under siege in the city center, along with thousands of civilians.
Mekdad told a news conference on Sunday the government would let women and children leave the city centre if rebels gave them safe passage. U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he understood they would be free to quit Homs immediately.
Western diplomats said the Syrian government should move quickly to allow aid in or face a possible United Nations Security Council resolution, with Russia and China being urged to reverse their opposition to such a move.
“The ball is still in the regime's court. We understand that a report has gone back to Damascus seeking instructions,” one diplomat said.

In Homs itself, opposition activists said rebels demanded a complete end to the blockade, not just a limited ceasefire. An online video showed demonstrators with Islamist flags denouncing the Geneva talks as “treachery”.
It highlighted one of the difficulties of the Geneva talks - the opposition delegation only represents some of the rebel factions on the ground. Powerful Islamist fighters allied to al-Qaida are not represented at all.
Brahimi acknowledged the slow start to proceedings which began with a formal international conference on Wednesday.

“This is a political negotiation ... Our negotiation is not the main place where humanitarian issues are discussed. But I think we all felt ... that you cannot start a negotiation about Syria without having some discussion about the very, very bad humanitarian situation that exists,” he said.
Prisoners
Brahimi said opposition delegates, who have asked for the release of nearly 50,000 detainees, had agreed to a government request to try to provide a list of those held by armed rebel groups - though many of these groups, fighting among themselves, do not recognise the negotiators' authority.
Mekdad said the government had examined an opposition list of 47,000 people believed to have been arrested by Assad's forces and found most had either never been held or were now free. He also denied that any children were being held.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose government has helped Assad resist Western pressure but backs a negotiated peace to prevent the conflict spreading, called for progress on aid, unblocking besieged areas and prisoner exchanges.
Underlining the difficulty of implementing even local agreements on the ground, a U.N. agency trying to deliver aid to a besieged rebel area of Damascus said state checkpoints had hampered its work, despite assurances from the government that it would allow the distributions.

You May Like

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Marchella from: Italy
January 27, 2014 9:04 AM
Hooray..!! The Syrian criminal "Government" allows starving Women and children to leave an Area the "government" bombed with chemical weapons - real Arab humanitarians..!! still, you need to be mindful that those "children" are viewed by their parents as "Suicide Vest Carriers..." - another Arab depravity... you think you can make "peace" with these scumbags..??

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid