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Jan 31, 2014

Syria peace talks take a break as rivals dig in

GENEVA (Reuters) – A first round of peace talks on Syria wraps up Friday with both sides in entrenched positions and the U.N. mediator expressing frustration that it had not even been possible to get agreement for an aid convoy to enter the besieged city of Homs.

After a week of talks at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, the opposing sides in Syria’s civil war were still stuck on the question of how to proceed.

Jan 30, 2014

Ice breaks in Syrian peace talks as two sides observe minute of silence

GENEVA (Reuters) – Opposing sides in Syria’s civil war stood together to observe a minute of silence on Thursday in honor of the tens of thousands killed in the three-year conflict, a rare symbol of harmony a week into peace talks that have so far yielded no compromise.

The first talks between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and his foes have been mired in rhetoric since they began last Friday. The two sides took a first tentative step forward on Wednesday by agreeing to use the same 2012 roadmap as the basis of discussions to end the civil war, although they disagreed about how talks should proceed.

Jan 28, 2014

Aid convoy stalled as Syrian government demands assurances

GENEVA (Reuters) – The fate of a U.N. aid convoy for thousands of Syrians besieged in the city of Homs was in the balance on Tuesday as the government said it wanted assurances the supplies would not end up in the hands of “terrorists”.

Efforts to get food and medical supplies into the city have become a test case on whether peace talks in Switzerland can produce any practical measures on the ground almost three years into the conflict.

Jan 28, 2014

Syria peace talks hit more trouble as rebel city ‘starves’

GENEVA (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. A U.S. State Department spokesman said an evacuation was not an alternative to immediate aid.

Jan 27, 2014

Syrian government under pressure to allow aid convoy

GENEVA (Reuters) – The Syrian government came under pressure on Monday to allow aid trucks into the besieged rebel city of Homs as negotiators sought to keep peace talks on track by focussing on humanitarian gestures.

The government said women and children could leave Homs and government and opposition delegates also spoke of releasing prisoners.

Jan 26, 2014

Syria talks bring offer of exit from siege of Homs

GENEVA (Reuters) – The Syrian government offered to let women and children leave the besieged city of Homs on Sunday as negotiators from the warring sides discussed humanitarian gestures on a second day of face-to-face talks in Geneva.

Government and opposition delegates also spoke of releasing prisoners and enabling access for aid convoys during what the U.N. mediator acknowledged was a slow process but one which he hoped would lead to broaching the central issue that divides them after three years of civil war – namely the future of Syria’s political structures and of President Bashar al-Assad.

Jan 24, 2014

U.N. documents new war crimes in Syria for future prosecution

GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. war crimes experts have documented more torture and killings by both sides in Syria and are confident they can build a case that could be taken up by the International Criminal Court, a leading member of the team said on Friday.

They are drawing up a fourth confidential list of suspects, either individuals or units linked to crimes committed since July, Karen Koning AbuZayd, an American expert serving on an independent commission of inquiry set up by the United Nations in 2011, said in an interview.

Jan 24, 2014

Talks stumble as Syria opposition refuses to meet government

GENEVA (Reuters) – Syria’s first peace talks faltered before they began on Friday, with opponents of President Bashar al-Assad refusing to meet his delegation unless it first signs up to a protocol calling for a transitional government.

Plans were ditched at the last minute for the two sides to sit down to talk face to face for the first time. Instead, they would each meet separately with a U.N. mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva.

Jan 23, 2014

U.N. aid chief seeks ceasefires at Syria talks

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) – The United Nations hopes that political talks between the warring sides in Syria will clinch local ceasefires to allow vital food and medicines to reach millions of civilians, the U.N. humanitarian chief said on Thursday.

Valerie Amos, in an interview with Reuters a day after an international conference on Syria, said mediator Lakhdar Brahimi would press the government and opposition on these humanitarian issues at meetings due to start later in the day.

Jan 23, 2014

Syrian enemies may discuss prisoner swaps despite talks acrimony

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) – Syria’s government and opposition, meeting for the first time, vented their mutual hostility on Wednesday but a U.N. mediator said the enemies may be ready to discuss prisoner swaps, local ceasefires and humanitarian aid.

Russia said the rival sides had promised to start direct talks on Friday despite fears that a standoff over President Bashar al-Assad’s fate would halt the push for a political solution to Syria’s civil war, which has killed over 130,000 and made millions homeless.