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Brahimi: still no decision on evacuation of women, children from Homs

January 28, 2014, 1:22 UTC+3 GENEVA
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GENEVA, January 27, 23:16 /ITAR-TASS/. The Syrian government and opposition negotiators have so far come to no agreement on the besieged Syrian city of Homs, the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, said at a news conference in Geneva on Monday, January 27.

“I told you yesterday that there was an agreement by the government that women and children can come out of Old City in Homs, I think they still discussing how that can be done. I think that the government is willing to make it happen, but it is not easy because there are snipers and there are all sorts of problems,” Brahimi said.

On Sunday, January 26, the Syrian government agreed to allow women and children in Homs to leave “immediately.”

“We are going to inform our people in Damascus, or we have already informed them about this, so hopefully,… women and children will be able to leave the old city of Homs,” Brahimi told journalist at the Palais des Nations. “I hope that the rest of civilians will be able to leave soon after that,” he added, noting that the Government has asked for a list of the men's names first.

However there is still no agreement on the access for an aid convoy into the besieged city. “Unfortunately there is no agreement on a ceasefire or the alleviation of the level of violence practised,” Brahimi said.

He stressed that humanitarian issues remained a part of the discussions in Geneva and expressed hope that the sides would continue to cooperate and those who have influence would use it to facilitate progress.

Humanitarian agencies’ personnel are ready to deliver necessary aid to Homs and Aleppo and start evacuating women and children from these cities, and they are prepared to take aid convoys to the besieged cities, a U.N. spokesperson said.

Anas Al-Abdah of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces said the opposition had confirmations that the humanitarian convoy in Homs would not be attacked by gunmen.

“We have such confirmations. Moreover, they [gunmen] will protect the convoy,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting, the sides discussed a declaration laying out the main principles of settlement, which had been presented by the Syrian government. Brahimi said these principles were largely identical to those stated in the Geneva communique.

Brahimi noted that the Syrian sides had the will to continue the talks and said that they would discuss the Geneva I communique on its merits on January 28.

The Syrian government delegation will not stop the talks with the opposition in Geneva and will continue them, Bouthaina Shaaban, an aide to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said. “Our team is not going to stop the talks. We will continue them until we see progress,” she said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Louay Safi, said the Syrian government delegation had refused to discuss the creation of a transitional governing body.

“The government is doing everything it can to avoid the main goal of the inter-Syrian talks, which is to comply with the Geneva communique and form a transitional government,” he said.

He said the government delegation had stated it was prepared to discuss only the problem of terrorism.

The Surya television channel quoted a source in the Syrian delegation as saying that at the morning round of talks in Geneva the opposition had turned down a document laying out key principles of settlement proposed by the government.

The government delegation had proposed a general platform that calls for preserving the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, rejects external interference and condemns support for terrorism.

“The document emphasises that Syrian people themselves will determine the future of their country democratically. This provision is supported by every citizen but was rejected by the opposition,” the source said.

The Syrian talks continued on January 27 with the two parties making “some general statements on the way forward.”

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 communique, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on 30 June 2012, and since endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

The communique 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.

Brahimi said he was happy that, in a general way, there was mutual respect in the talks.

“God willing this mood that I mentioned will continue and that we will make progress gradually,” he said.

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