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Syrian Government and Opposition Meet Face to Face

U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi says the first-ever day of joint meetings aimed at resolving nearly three years of civil war between the Syrian government and the opposition did not yield significant results.

Brahimi told reporters the opposing sides met twice Saturday in the same room at United Nations office in Geneva. He said the two groups discussed the dire humanitarian situation in Homs and hoped a solution could be reached soon to allow a humanitarian convoy to reach Homs' Old City as soon as Monday.

Homs is one of Syria's largest cities and has been pounded by government assaults to reclaim control from rebel forces.

Opposition representative Louay Safi told reporters Saturday's talks were necessary to save those dying of malnutrition inside the government's "water-tight" blockade of Homs. He called the talks "preparatory discussions leading to the negotiations," which he expects will start on Monday.

Safi reiterated that the opposition's main purpose of negotiating is to "transition from the rule of dictatorship to democracy."



Officials say representatives from the Syrian government and the Western-backed opposition faced each other for about 30 minutes Saturday morning and about two hours in the afternoon.

U.S. State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said the opposition demonstrated "a seriousness of purpose" in Geneva and went to the meeting "with the intention to engage constructively."

Another U.S. official, speaking on background, said as innocent civilians die in Syria, the regime continues to play games.

The opposition has said it will not negotiate directly with the Syrian government unless it agrees to discuss the departure of President Bashar al-Assad. Damascus has refused, accusing the rebels of supporting terrorism.

The official goal of the so-called Geneva 2 talks is to form a Syrian transition government, though analysts say the chances of achieving this goal are slim.

Brahimi has said the larger issues would be set aside and talks would deal with modest issues that could be built upon.

The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 as peaceful protests 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.

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