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Syria negotiators resume talks, opposition seeks prisoner release

Source: Reuters - Sun, 26 Jan 2014 10:43 GMT
Author: Reuters
hum-aid wom-rig hum-war hum-peo
U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi reacts to a question at a news conference at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Jamal Said
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GENEVA, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Syrian government and opposition delegations resumed face-to-face talks on Sunday expected to tackle humanitarian issues including opposition calls for Damascus to release women and child prisoners.

A U.N. spokeswoman said the two sides met for a second day at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva in the presence of international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who is trying to broker a peace deal to end almost three years of conflict.

Brahimi has said the two days of weekend talks will focus on what he has called confidence building measures, aimed at establishing a positive atmosphere before more difficult political talks on Monday.

He described Saturday's sessions - the first face-to-face meetings between Syria's warring foes - as a good beginning. However, he said little progress had been made over a deal to allow humanitarian aid into the centre of Homs city, where rebels have been besieged by President Bashar al-Assad's forces for 18 months.

The opposition said it will call on Sunday for the release of detainees. It has given no details but a Western diplomat said he expected the request to focus on women and children.

Government delegates arriving for the talks on Sunday said they were ready to discuss all issues presented by Brahimi but that it was a mistake to focus on individual or local issues.

"They proposed Homs. We say all Syrian cities are equal and as important," Information Minister Omran Zoabi told reporters.

Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Assad and member of the government delegation, echoed his reservations.

"The other side came here to discuss a small problem here or there. We came to discuss the future of Syria," she said. "We did not come here to bring relief to a region here or a region there. We came here to restore safety and security to our country."

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