World News

Syrian Peace Talks on Hold for the Day

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.

Members of the Syrian National Coalition's negotiating team said the afternoon session was cancelled to give the government a chance to make its proposal about the future of Syria within the context of the 2012 Geneva communique.

That document is the basis for the current talks in Geneva and calls for several steps to end the crisis in Syria, including creating a transitional government agreed to by both sides.

Rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insist he must leave power, while the Syrian government says Mr. Assad's role is not up for debate at the conference.



The Associated Press reported that U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi broke off the discussions after the SNC rejected a paper presented by the Syrian delegation denouncing the resumption of U.S. aid to non-armed opposition groups.

But Brahimi said he ended the morning session without any pressure from the two sides. He acknowledged that, so far, only the opposition has presented its ideas on how to implement the Geneva document.

Also Tuesday, the fate of a U.N. aid convoy for thousands of Syrians besieged in the rebel-held city of Homs was in limbo as the government said it wanted assurances the supplies would not end up in the hands of "terrorists."

The United Nations said it was ready to deliver a month's worth of rations to about 2,500 people trapped inside Homs after a deal at the peace talks, but still needed approval.

The government said it first wanted to know who would receive the assistance.

In another development, 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 Mr. 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 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.

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