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

By REUTERS
January 30, 2014 14:51
1 minute read.

 
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GENEVA - 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 fare yielded no compromise.

The first talks between President Bashar 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.

UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said on Wednesday he does not expect to achieve anything substantive in the first round which ends on Friday, but hopes for more progress in a second round starting about a week later.

Opposition delegate Ahmad Jakal said his delegation's head, Hadi al-Bahra, proposed the minute of silence and all sides stood up, including Assad's delegation and Brahimi's team.

"All stood up for the souls of the martyrs. Symbolically it was good," Jakal told Reuters.

Diplomats said there had been no progress on humanitarian issues and that a UN aid convoy has been waiting fruitlessly to enter the rebel-held Old City of Homs, where the United States says civilians are starving.

If there is no breakthrough on Homs this week, it would give the opposition delegation, mostly comprised of exiles, little to show for their decision to participate. Other factions with more power on the ground in Syria are opposed to the talks.

The 2012 plan sets out stages to end the conflict, including a halt to fighting, delivery of aid and agreement on setting up a transitional government body by mutual consent.

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