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New round of Syria peace talks begins in Geneva

New round of Syria peace talks begins in Geneva
MGN Online
Monday, February 10, 2014 - 5:52am

Syria's warring sides begin a new round of peace talks Monday, days after a first session managed little beyond a pledge to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Homs.

The Geneva II peace conference, which had its first session some 10 days ago, brought the Syrian government and opposition together for face-to-face negotiations for the first time since the nearly three-year-old conflict began.

The round of talks ended with no firm agreements and bitter exchanges from both sides.

However, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said then that some "common ground" had been reached.

Monday morning, he met with the Syrian opposition in Geneva, Switzerland. Later in the day, he will talk with the government representatives.

As the talks resume, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France and other countries would present a resolution at the United Nations calling for greater access for humanitarian aid.

"We are asking for stronger action as far as the humanitarian side is concerned, that medicines and food supplies are handed out in cities," he told French radio RTL.

"It is absolutely scandalous that there have been discussions for quite a while and that people are still being starved every day, and so along with a number of other countries, we will present a resolution at the U.N. along those lines."

A French foreign ministry spokesman said it was too early to say when such a resolution would be presented at the U.N. Security Council.

Under fire in Homs

The new round of talks come after hundreds of people were evacuated from Homs. More than 600 people were convoyed out of the restive city on Sunday after gunfire interrupted a U.N.-brokered humanitarian pause, state media reported.

Vehicles from the Red Crescent and United Nations had a difficult time entering the city over the weekend as they were targeted by gunfire and explosives.

But workers managed to deliver some aid to the thousands of people in the besieged section of the city known as the Old City of Homs, where rebels battle government troops and each other.

The conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions more since it began in 2011, creating a major humanitarian crisis within Syria and for its neighbors.

At the end of the last talks, the two warring sides appeared to be a long way away from reaching any compromise.

The government insists the talks focus on fighting "terrorism" - its description of the uprising - but the opposition says that the priority should be the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

It has insisted that the government commit in writing to the 2012 Geneva I communique, which called for the formation of a transitional government.

President Assad's government has ruled out any transfer of power.

CNN's Alex Felton contributed to this report 

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