Syria peace talks in Geneva make 'positive' step forward

Jan 29 2014, 20:29 IST
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SummarySyrian negotiators discussed the establishment of a transitional government body for the first time

Syrian negotiators discussed the establishment of a transitional government body for the first time Wednesday, an opposition delegate said, describing it as a ''positive step forward,'' a day after talks were cut short over a US decision to resume aid to the opposition.

Despite the apparent small step in the peace talks, chances for a breakthrough before everyone goes home Friday appear almost nil as both sides continue to blame each other for an impasse.

Louay Safi, a spokesman for the opposition's negotiating team, said the government delegation stuck to its demand that putting an end to terrorism was still its No. 1 priority. Nevertheless, the fact that the transition was even on the table was a good sign, Safi said.

''Today we had a positive step forward because for the first time now we are talking about the transitional governing body, the body whose responsibility is to end dictatorship and move toward democracy and end the fighting and misery in Syria,'' he said.

The government seems ''more ready to discuss that issue, but still they're trying to push it to the back of the discussion,'' Safi said. ''We told them that this has to come first, because nothing else can be achieved before we form a transitional governing body.''

Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, confirmed that both sides touched on the issue, but described Wednesday's talks as constructive for another reason.

''The talks have been positive today actually because they spoke about terrorism,'' she said.

Safi and Shaaban spoke after a meeting between government and opposition delegates with the U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.

A deal to allow humanitarian aid into the besieged central city of Homs remain stalled, with the Syrian delegation demanding assurances the U.S. aid will not go to ''armed and terrorist groups'' in the central city.

The negotiations aimed at ending Syria's 3-year-old conflict began Friday in Geneva and Brahimi has said both sides were willing to continue despite a lack of progress.

The talks were cut short Tuesday over the U.S. decision to restart deliveries of nonlethal aid to the Syrian opposition, more than a month after al-Qaida-linked militants seized warehouses and prompted a sudden cutoff of Western supplies to the rebels.

The officials said the communications equipment and other items are being funneled only to non-armed opposition groups, but the move boosts Syria's beleaguered rebels, who saw their international support slide, in

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