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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.

Jan 22, 2014

Syria peace conference opens with rifts over Assad

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) – Syria’s government and its enemies came face to face for the first time on Wednesday at a one-day peace conference in Switzerland which world powers hope can at least start a process to end three years of civil war.

There was immediate evidence of sharp differences, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that President Bashar al-Assad must step down, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned against outsiders meddling in Syria’s affairs.

Jan 22, 2014

Syria peace conference opens, divided over Assad

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) – Syria’s government and its enemies came face to face on Wednesday for the first time as a peace conference began in Switzerland which world powers hope can at least start a process to end three years of civil war.

There was immediate evidence of sharp differences, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that President Bashar al-Assad must step down, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned against outsiders meddling in Syria’s affairs.

Jan 20, 2014

Red Cross ready to step up Syria aid, help prisoner swaps

GENEVA (Reuters) – The Red Cross is ready to deliver aid to besieged towns in Syria and facilitate prisoner exchanges if the warring sides agree to confidence-building measures at peace talks in Switzerland, a senior official told Reuters on Monday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Friday he had handed Russia plans for a ceasefire with rebel forces in Syria’s biggest city, Aleppo, and was ready to exchange lists on a possible prisoner swap.