Syrian peace talks make little progress, says United Nations mediator

Al-Qaeda offshoot begins withdrawal from besieged Yarmouk, says Al Jazeera

Since January 18th the UN agency serving Palestinian refugees has provided 6,500 food parcels for the 18,000 inhabitants of Yarmouk. Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian offshoot Jabhat al-Nusra began withdrawing from the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee neighbourhood south of Damascus under a deal reached yesterday, Al Jazeera reported.

Since January 18th the UN agency serving Palestinian refugees has provided 6,500 food parcels for the 18,000 inhabitants of Yarmouk. Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian offshoot Jabhat al-Nusra began withdrawing from the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee neighbourhood south of Damascus under a deal reached yesterday, Al Jazeera reported.

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 01:00


United Nations mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said yesterday the second round of talks between the Syrian government and opposition has made little progress as humanitarian operations were suspended in Homs and fighters linked to al-Qaeda began to withdraw from an embattled Damascus suburb.

Responding to a comment that he had to have a tonne of patience to continue, Mr Brahimi said: “The Syrian people do not have much patience” and expect the warring sides to “get something going to stop this nightmare”.

The delegations will have to listen to their own people “sometime”, he added.

Mr Brahimi praised UN personnel and Syrian Red Crescent volunteers for braving shell and sniper fire to deliver food and medicine and evacuate civilians from the besieged insurgent-occupied old city of Homs, calling the operation a “success”, as 1,151 people have left the area.

There will be a routine meeting on Friday of the trilateral group – Russian deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov, US undersecretary of state Wendy Sherman and Mr Brahimi, who will be going to New York next week to report to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and the UN security council.

“We will do our best to make this process take off. We need the co-operation of both sides and a lot of support from outside,” Mr Brahimi said.

Following the three-hour joint meeting, Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said the day had been lost “because representatives of the coalition insisted that terrorism does not exist in Syria, [they] did not want to discuss it. This should be a priority for any Syrian . . . After that we are ready to discuss anything.”

Expatriate opposition National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi accused the government of stalling as it “still believes in a military solution”.

Homs governor Talal Barazi said the evacuation operation and delivery of food had been suspended until this morning for “logistical” reasons. Some 500-800 people in five different locations want to leave.

The UN has expressed concern about 336 male evacuees of military age who are being questioned by the authorities at a school “monitored” by UN staff. Forty-one have been released.

Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian offshoot Jabhat al-Nusra began withdrawing from the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee neighbourhood south of Damascus under a deal reached yesterday, Al Jazeera reported. Explosive experts have entered the area to remove land mines before residents return.

Since January 18th the UN agency serving Palestinian refugees has provided 6,500 food parcels for the 18,000 inhabitants of Yarmouk.

The most toxic weapons chemicals will be shipped out of Syria by March 1st, the country’s ambassador to Russia, Riad Haddad, said, adding that Damascus would “stick to the [June 30th] deadline” for the destruction of its chemical stocks.