Brahimi to hold trilateral talks on Syria

US and Russia meeting brought forward as government, opposition remain deadlocked

United Nations mediator Lakhdar Brahimi gives a press conference after negotiation between the Syrian government and the opposition in Geneva, Switzerland. Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA

United Nations mediator Lakhdar Brahimi gives a press conference after negotiation between the Syrian government and the opposition in Geneva, Switzerland. Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA

Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 00:41

United Nations mediator Lakhdar Brahimi is set to hold trilateral discussions on Thursday with Russian deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov and US undersecretary of state Wendy Sherman in a bid to generate progress in the Syrian peace talks.

The Geneva meeting, originally scheduled for Friday, was been brought forward as negotiations between government and opposition remain deadlocked.

On Wednesday, Mr Brahimi met Mr Gatilov who later held discussions with Syrian foreign minister and delegation head Walid Muallem. Wrangling over the agenda continued in the morning with the government arguing that ending the conflict should be given priority as the opposition delegation presented its proposal for an interim authority to oversee the transition to democracy.

Syria’s official television said Damascus had rejected Mr Brahimi’s call for parallel talks on both issues.

The five-page opposition paper provided for a transitional governing body that would “prepare and oversee a total ceasefire by taking immediate measures to stop military violence, protect civilians and stabilise the country in the presence of UN observers.”

Foreign fighters would be expelled; troops withdrawn from cities and towns; and insurgents disarmed, demobilised and given jobs in the army and civil service.

While opposition delegate Anas al-Abdeh called on Damascus ally Moscow to press the government to be more flexible in the talks, Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said the government was prepared to discuss foreign fighters. This issue fits into its agenda, which gives priority to insurgent “terrorism”.

Operations to deliver food aid and evacuate civilians from the besieged insurgent-held old city of Homs resumed yesterday.

Vehicles transporting aid brought out 217 civilians from the Bustan al-Diwan neighbourhood, bringing the total number of evacuees since last Friday to 1,368.

Yabroud, the last insurgent-held town along the highway from Damascus to Homs, has come under attack from government forces. Some 300 civilians and wounded have fled across the Lebanese frontier to the pro-insurgent village of Arsal.

Radical jihadis are believed to be holding in Yabroud Orthodox Christian nuns kidnapped from the ancient town of Maloula.

Russia said it would veto the western-drafted UN Security Council resolution that demands humanitarian access to besieged areas in Syria and a halt to government bombardment of cities and towns.