Published: Sun, February 26, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Homs blasts threaten to derail Syria talks in Geneva

GENEVA, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Opposing sides in the Syrian war came face-to-face in United Nations peace talks for the first time in three years on Thursday, to hear United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura implore them to find a way out of the nearly six-year-old conflict.

"Today I had a meeting with Secretary General of the United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura during which we discussed the format of the upcoming meetings", he said stressing that only the format of further negotiations was discussed.

Meanwhile, Syria's main opposition's High Negotiations Committee (HNC) spokesman Salem al-Muslat said at the fresh round of peace talks that they "will never be the reason for the negotiations to fail".

During three rounds of talks in Geneva a year ago, the rivals never sat down at the same table, instead leaving De Mistura to shuttle between them.

General Hassan Daabul, an army intelligence chief and close confidant of President Bashar al-Assad, was among the dozens killed on Saturday in blasts targeting two security service bases in Homs.

De Mistura said Wednesday that he's not expecting a breakthrough, but wants to build momentum. He says those who refuse to condemn the attacks will be considered partners in terrorism, not talks.

UN-brokered Syrian peace talks resume in Geneva on Thursday, but hopes of a breakthrough are dim, clouded by persistent violence and deadlock over the country's political future.

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This latest round of talks, known as "Geneva IV", appears unlikely to resolve the war in Syria that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 people, created the world's worst refugee crisis and fueled the rise of the Islamic State. "But we can not address the profound security threats while Assad remains in power".

"This unsafe development necessitates that [not only UN Secretary General and UNSC, but] also the Special Envoy condemn this act of terror and that all the factions participating in Geneva talks, without exception, condemn such terrorist attacks", the ministry said, as cited by SANA.

"We will be continuing work with de Mistura", Jaafari said.

Warplanes also carried out six raids on Douma in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, resulting in six deaths, and earlier, an air raid in Hama killed four people from the same family, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"During this round of talks we discussed the format of upcoming meetings. exclusively", Ja'afari told reporters after about two hours of discussions.

If they failed to do so, the government would consider them "terrorists", he said.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Geneva, Issam al-Reis, spokesperson for the Southern Front branch of the FSA, accused the Assad government of staging Saturday's attacks in Homs to influence the Geneva talks.

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