November 1, 2014
Syria peace talks hit trouble as Homs 'starves'
The United States demanded that Syria allow aid into the "starving" city of Homs, as talks aimed at ending three years of civil war hit more trouble over the future of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government said women and children could leave the besieged city and that rebels should hand over the names of the men who would remain. A US State Department spokesman said an evacuation was not an alternative to immediate aid.
"We firmly believe that the Syrian regime must approve the convoys to deliver badly needed humanitarian assistance into the Old City of Homs now," said spokesman Edgar Vasquez. "The situation is desperate and the people are starving."
He said the people of Homs must not be forced to leave their homes and split up their families before receiving aid.
After long months of fighting, much of Syria's third biggest city has been reduced to rubble and people inside are under siege, cut off from supplies.
The city's fate has turned into a test of whether the first peace talks attended by both sides in the three-year war can achieve practical measures on the ground, while a broader political settlement seems as remote as ever.
"Once again, I tell you we never expected any miracle, there are no miracles here. But we will continue and see if progress can be made and when," said UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the host of the talks.
Efforts to reach a political settlement have stumbled over the question of creating a transitional government, which the opposition and its Western backers believe would remove Assad from power. Assad's government refuses to discuss it.
Syria's government delegation presented a document for negotiation which did not mention a transition of power.
The government's "declaration of basic principles" said Syrians would choose a political system without "imposed formulas" from abroad. The opposition immediately rejected it.
"The declaration is outside the framework of Geneva, which centres on creating a transitional governing body. It fails to address the core issue," the opposition's chief negotiator, Hadi al Bahra, told Reuters.