UN mediator hails 'good' start to Syria talks

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UN mediator hails 'good' start to Syria talks

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With the two sides in Syria’s conflict finally in the same room, UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi says the Geneva talks have got off to a “good” start.

However, Saturday’s discussions on a possible humanitarian deal were conducted through him, without the parties speaking directly to each other.

“The situation is difficult and very, very complicated and we are moving not in steps, but in half-steps,” Brahimi told reporters, confirming that on Sunday the issue of prisoner releases by the two sides would be broached.

Brahimi also said that he hoped authorities in Syria would approve access for an aid convoy to reach the rebel-held centre of Homs.

The civil war has made half of Syria’s population dependent on aid, including hundreds of thousands of people cut off by fighting.

Opposition spokesman Louay Safi of the Syrian National Coalition, described Homs as a
barometer of the government’s good intentions.

“Homs has been besieged for more than 10 months, without food, without medicine or any form of aid reaching the city,” he said after Saturday’s talks.

“So the discussion was about Homs within the bigger issue of securing humanitarian corridors to stop the starvation of besieged Syrians.”

Tough political negotiations are yet to be broached by the talks and in Syria, nearly three years of conflict continues.

Amateur video, posted on social media and said to have been filmed on Saturday, purports to show air strikes on the Damascus suburb of Daraya. Government helicopters are said to have launched three series of barrel bomb attacks.