Syrian peace talks resume in Geneva as hundreds escape Homs

Feb 10, 2014

Ceasefire set to continue in the 'capital of the revolution', but what's next for Geneva II?

THE second round of peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition has begun in Geneva as a fragile truce holds in Homs.

Last month, the first round of the Geneva II conference brought the warring sides together for the first face-to-face negotiations since the conflict began almost three years ago.

The initial talks ended with no firm compromise or agreement, but according to UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, some "common ground" had been reached.
What has happened since then?

A ceasefire deal was discussed during Geneva II, but was only struck between the governor of Homs and the UN resident co-ordinator in Syria a week later, the BBC reports.

The truce was agreed upon by both sides last week to allow the evacuation of civilians and the distribution of much-needed aid in the besieged city of Homs.

The city has been under siege by government forces for almost 18 months, with no access to food or medical aid.

Over 600 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, have been evacuated from the city since Friday.

The evacuations were carried out by UN staff and Syrian Red Crescent volunteers, alongside the Syrian army.

Despite the agreed ceasefire, some aid agency convoys still came under mortar and gunfire attack as they attempted to deliver food, the BBC’s Lyse Doucet reports.

Evacuations are set to continue as rebels and the Bashar al-Assad government agreed to extend the truce for a further three days, Al Jazeera reports

Homs has been a key battleground since the conflict began in 2011 and has been called the ‘capital of the revolution’.
What are the hopes for these talks?

The second round of talks will focus on the humanitarian aspect of the crisis. A quarter of a million people across Syria are in desperate need of aid and almost 10 million have been displaced due to the conflict.

International participants are expected to encourage the two sides to allow greater access to aid workers, by creating safe aid corridors and increasing the number of visas issued to aid workers.

David Miliband has described this phase of the talks as a discussion on how to bring "humanity to the conduct of the war".

A resolution is expected to be presented by France and other countries on how to deal with the deepening humanitarian crisis.

Lyse Doucet predicts the negotiations will be a “tortuous process” consisting of “small steps forward and big lurches backwards.”

 “Peace is the ultimate prize”, she says. “But, when so many are starving, even the arrival of bread counts as progress in peace talks.”

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