Syria negotiators resume talks, expected to tackle humanitarian issues

January 26, 2014 14:01

Opposition seeks prisoner release, avenue for humanitarian aide into besieged city of Homs.

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UN peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.

Arab League Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi 370 (R). (photo credit:REUTERS)

GENEVA  - Syrian government and opposition delegations resumed face-to-face talks on Sunday expected to tackle humanitarian issues including opposition calls for Damascus to release women and child prisoners.

A UN spokeswoman said the two sides met for a second day at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva in the presence of international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who is trying to broker a peace deal to end almost three years of conflict.

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Brahimi has said the two days of weekend talks will focus on what he has called confidence building measures, aimed at establishing a positive atmosphere before more difficult political talks on Monday.

He described Saturday's sessions - the first face-to-face meetings between Syria's warring foes - as a good beginning. However, he said little progress had been made over a deal to allow humanitarian aid into the center of Homs city, where rebels have been besieged by President Bashar Assad's forces for 18 months.

The opposition said it will call on Sunday for the release of detainees. It has given no details but a Western diplomat said he expected the request to focus on women and children.

Government delegates arriving for the talks on Sunday said they were ready to discuss all issues presented by Brahimi but that it was a mistake to focus on individual or local issues.

"They proposed Homs. We say all Syrian cities are equal and as important," Information Minister Omran Zoabi told reporters.

Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Assad and member of the government delegation, echoed his reservations.

"The other side came here to discuss a small problem here or there. We came to discuss the future of Syria," she said. "We did not come here to bring relief to a region here or a region there. We came here to restore safety and security to our country."

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