Syria talks turn to political issues as question of aid delivery stalls – UN-Arab League envoy
Lakhdar Brahimi briefed journalists at the Palais des Nations after a third day of talks with him acting as a buffer between representatives of the Syrian Government and opposition groups.
“In the morning we discussed a paper presented by the Government, general principles, most of those principles are already in the Geneva Declaration,” he said. “And tomorrow we are going to talk about the Geneva Declaration itself and see if we can start debate.”
The discussions focused this weekend on getting an aid convoy into Homs, and on allowing civilians to leave the besieged city, cut off from supplies. The idea is that if agreement can be reached on humanitarian issues, it could bring the parties together to work through the political challenges.
The Syrian Government has agreed to allow women and children to exit “immediately”, but has asked for a list of the men’s names before letting the rest of the civilians pass.
“I think the Government is willing to make it happen, but it’s not easy because there are snipers and there are all sorts of problems,” Mr. Brahimi said.
On the food convoy, a topic that was to be discussed today in Syria by the Homs Governor, his advisors and the Government in Damascus, “there is no decision yet to let them in.”
“So I am still begging, asking, that we, something be done about these areas, whether these areas are under siege by the Government or by the armed groups,” Mr. Brahimi stressed.
Of the more than 9.3 million people within the country needing humanitarian aid, over 2.5 million live in areas where access is seriously constrained or non-existent, such as Homs.
In addition, well over 100,000 people have been killed and nearly 9 million others driven from their homes since the conflict erupted in March 2011 between the Government and various groups seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.
“My expectation from this conference is that the unjust war will stop. But I know this is not going to happen today or tomorrow or next week,” Mr. Brahimi told journalists, adding that despite a lack of progress, there is “will to continue these discussions.”
The goal of the conference is to achieve a political solution to the three-year-long conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the two sides for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on 30 June 2012, and since endorsed by the UN Security Council.
The communiqué lays out key steps in a process to end the violence. Among others, it calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and made up by members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups, as part of agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition.
Mr. Brahimi, who has briefed journalists daily since the latest round of the talks started, also called on the two sides to be “a bit careful” with statement made to the media.
“I have told them this afternoon that there was need to be responsible and respect, if possible, the confidentiality of the discussions,” the joint envoy said. “If you don’t respect the confidentiality at least don’t overstate the case.”