Syria talks bring offer of exit from siege of Homs

Updated: 2014-01-27 09:31


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Syria talks bring offer of exit from siege of Homs

A man carries a bag amid damage and debris in the besieged area of Homs January 26, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]


An adviser to Assad, Bouthaina Shaaban, complained that opposition delegates were focusing on local issues and said the UN text calling for a political transition should be amended.

The government was ready to discuss the Geneva Communique agreed by world powers 18 months ago, she said. But she added: "Geneva is not the Koran. It's not the Gospel ... Geneva was issued in June 2012. We are now January 26, 2014. The ground has changed. We change according to what this reality requires."

In the summer of 2012, rebel forces took control of much of Aleppo, Syria's biggest city, and were challenging Assad's forces on the edge of Damascus. Since then, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and Iranian military commanders, Assad's forces have halted the rebel advances and consolidated control over the centre of the country, although there is little sign of them retaking swathes of rebel-held territory in the east.

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said there was no chance of Assad surrendering power: "If anybody thinks or believes that there is a possibility for what is called the stepping down of President Bashar al-Assad, they live in a mythical world and let them stay in Alice in Wonderland."

Profound mutual mistrust and the absence from Geneva of powerful Islamist opposition groups make any substantial progress very difficult, and previous aid deals and ceasefires in Syria have proved short-lived.

There are now hundreds of rebel groups across the country, including al Qaida-linked militants whose presence discouraged Western governments from backing the rebellion more forcefully.

Few fighters heed the opposition in exile and the powerful Islamic Front has said negotiators who leave Geneva without having assured Assad's downfall will be treated as traitors.

There was more fighting on Sunday, both between government and rebel forces and between Islamist rebels and ethnic Kurds, who have carved out their own territory in the northeast.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 26 fighters had been killed in clashes since Saturday between Kurds and Islamists.

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