Syrian rivals hold face-to-face meeting

Government and opposition in same room for latest round of Geneva II negotiations, as evacuation of Homs continues.

    Syrian government and opposition negotiators met face-to-face for the first time during a second round of Geneva talks, as aid teams launched fresh efforts to evacuate civilians from the besieged Syrian city of Homs

    The session on Tuesday was chaired by joint UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations said.

    "The Joint Special Representative is meeting this morning with the two delegations simultaneously. The meeting started at 10:00am," UN spokeswoman Corinne Momal-Vanian said.

    According to James Bays, Al Jazeera's diplomatic editor, it is understood that the opposition had submitted to Brahimi a "political vision" document for the future of Syria, and urged him to speed up the process of the talks.

    Bays said that the opposition believed the government was stalling for time while continuing its assaults on the battlefield.

    The Syrian Red Crescent meanwhile said on Tuesday that it was preparing to re-enter the Old City area of Homs, a day after it had announced 1,200 people had been evacuated from rebel-held areas that have been under siege for months.

    The United Nations said the operation would be extended to Wednesday night. The UN humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, said: "I hope this will allow us to evacuate yet more civilians and deliver much needed additional supplies."

    The humanitarian exit operation is part of a deal brokered by the United Nations between the regime and the Syrian opposition after months of negotiations.

    But a ceasefire underpinning the effort proved fragile, with the first aid convoy coming under attack Saturday and mortar shells hitting a rebel-held district Sunday, killing five people.

    Diplomats at the UN in New York were meanwhile discussing a draft resolution about humanitarian aid to Homs. The draft however has been deried by Russia, the Syrian gvoernment's main ally, as "absolutely one-sided".

    Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said on Tuesday: "The ideas that were shared with us by those initiating this process... are absolutely unacceptable and contain an ultimatum for the government, that if they don't solve all this in two weeks then we automatically introduce sanctions." 

    The nearly three-year civil conflict has killed about 136,000 people and displaced millions more.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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