March 8, 2014
Syrian govt, opposition to discuss aid for Homs
The Syrian government and opposition have agreed to discuss over the next two days a possible deal to provide humanitarian access to the besieged city of Homs as part of confidence building measures, diplomatic sources said.
"They agreed to work for the next 48 hours on providing humanitarian access to Homs," one of the sources said, referring to the city where rebels are surrounded in central districts by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
"The practical aspects have been worked on, things are ready and if the government doesn't put a block on it then it could happen quickly."
The two parties will hold their first joint meeting on Saturday to launch peace talks aimed at resolving nearly three years of civil war after negotiations almost collapsed before they started.
The face-to-face meeting was delayed from Friday after the opposition at first said it would not meet the government side unless it first agreed to sign up to a 2012 statement by world powers calling for a transitional government in Syria.
The sources said the initial plan would be for international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi to outline his vision tomorrow in a 30-minute speech to both sides before speaking to them separately.
They said both sides had agreed to discuss Homs as a first step and if a deal could be struck, relief could begin as early as Monday.
"It would be a de facto humanitarian pause to allow for a short time humanitarian aid, primarily food," one source said.
He added that Brahimi hoped that once they had worked on this first confidence measure they would then talk on the political aspects of a deal.
"The idea of the talks is to mix confidence measures with politics."