Syrian peace talks have reached an impasse, both parties have confirmed. The dead end comes as fighting continued in Syria and the evacuation of Homs was reportedly suspended.
Like the previous round of talks, the UN-brokered Geneva 2 discussions have yielded few results. The opposition is pushing for the formation of a transitional government, but the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has flatly rejected the proposal.
Instead, government negotiators have pressed to center talks on the "terrorism" perpetuated by anyone who carries "arms against their people and government," Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Muqdad, told reporters on Friday.
"We deeply regret that this round did not make any progress," he said.
Minutes earlier, opposition spokesman Louay Safi confirmed "negotiations have reached an impasse."
"If this situation does not change … It means that the negotiations are not moving towards a political solution. We are now awaiting serious progress." The opposition dismissed government accusations it had committed acts of terrorism, but Safi said it had "no problem" discussing it in talks. "Terrorism has been instigated by the regime," he added.
An opposition spokesman told Reuters that Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-appointed Geneva 2 mediator, would take talks into a third round, although a date is yet to be confirmed. "I would not say the negotiations are at a dead-end - they haven't even started," added Russia's deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, to news agency Itar-Tass.
Cities under attack
The talks took place on Friday even as the conflict raged back in Syria. Hundreds of refugees have fled over the country's border to Lebanon after fighting continued in the rebel-held city of Yabroud. The city has been heavily shelled, and UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville raised the prospect that "a major assault by land may be imminent."
In the northern city of Aleppo, rebels detonated mines in tunnels under a hotel used by the army, killing at least five soldiers and wounding around 20. Fighting broke out after the attack on Friday morning, with an unknown number of rebels also killed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition group, said 38 civilians were among more than 50 killed in Aleppo when government forces dropped barrel bombs on the city.
Homs evacuation halted, says UN
UN official Matthew Hollingworth told news agency AP the evacuation process would be halted in order to concentrate on "the regularization" of the detained men and boys between the ages of 15 and 55.
UN Humanitarian Affairs chief Valerie Amos said 1,400 people had been evacuated, but stressed that, with "nearly a quarter of a million more people to go," it was hard to describe the operation as "progress."
Due to have expired on midnight on Wednesday, the cease-fire allowing for the delivery of aid and the evacuation has been extended by three days, according to Syrian state television.
ph/rg (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)