January 28, 2014 in Nation/World

Homs aid convoy halted

Roy Gutman McClatchy-Tribune
Associated Press photo

Monzer Akbik, center, a Syrian opposition spokesman, leaves the United Nations headquarters in Geneva on Monday. Akbik accused the government of stalling during peace talks.
(Full-size photo)

GENEVA – Peace talks between the warring parties in Syria’s civil war hit an impasse Monday after the government failed to allow a 12-truck aid convoy into the besieged old city of Homs and the opposition rejected a government statement on the aims of the conference.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations special representative on Syria, said “there is no decision yet” from the government on the convoy, which the political opposition has called a top humanitarian priority. Brahimi said the government’s proposal to evacuate women and children from the besieged old town also was on hold, due to a discussion of “all sorts of” security problems.

The veteran Algerian negotiator did not mask his disappointment. “The humanitarian discussions haven’t produced much, unfortunately,” he said.

“I am still begging, asking that something be done” about Homs and a half-dozen other towns under siege, including at least two beset by armed opposition forces, he said. But he summed up: “You know, we never expected miracles.”

The formal talks, which opened Friday at the U.N.’s European headquarters, moved into the political realm Monday and immediately hit a wall, with the opposition rejecting the government’s proposed set of principles to guide the discussions.

Brahimi said most of the principles in the government statement were already in the Geneva declaration, the 2012 document that formed the basis for the current round of negotiations. One important principle was missing, however: the communique’s call for appointing a “transitional governing body” with “full executive powers” whose membership either side could veto.

The United States and the opposition claim that that provision would exclude Syrian President Bashar Assad from participation in the transitional authority, because the opposition would never agree to his involvement. Opposition spokesman Louay Safi called omission of the transitional authority a “tactic to divert us from the real purpose” of the talks: discussion of an executive power that would replace Assad.

The Syrian government said the opposition’s response revealed its lack of experience and its reliance on others outside the meeting room to make its decisions.

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