9:13 pm - Tuesday November 17, 2015

Syria talks: Delegates due to raise power transfer

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The Syrian peace talks in Geneva are due to move on to wider political questions such as the divisive issue of transfer of power in the country.

But discussions are also expected to continue on aid convoys reaching the besieged area of Homs.

On Sunday, the Syrian government delegation said women and children may leave the city – but demanded a list of names of men who want to leave.

Some opposition delegates expressed reservations over the conditions.

“The regime keeps asking for lists,” Obeida Nahas of the Syrian National Council told the BBC.

“We feel that these are lists that they will use in detaining people and maybe torturing them.”

Officially the negotiations are due to tackle the potentially explosive question of transferring power in Syria on Monday, reports the BBC’s Bridget Kendall in Geneva.

Those talks may still happen – but there is likely to be new pressure on President Bashar al-Assad’s government over whether it will comply with a UN plan to send humanitarian aid to Homs, our correspondent adds.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said women and children were free to leave the city. He alleged armed groups were preventing them from doing so.

UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said the opposition had agreed to give the government lists of detainees held by armed groups.

He said he hoped a humanitarian convoy from the UN and the Red Cross would be able to go to Homs on Monday.

Hundreds of people are reportedly trapped in besieged parts of the city, including some who are very ill and vulnerable.

Mr Brahimi admitted the talks were proceeding slowly but said that on Monday he “expected the two parties to make some general statement about the way forward”.

He said it was “too early” to assess the prospects of a comprehensive deal.
‘Respect and exchange’

The opposition and government are fundamentally divided over the aims of the conference.

The government delegation has said the main issue of the talks is finding a solution to foreign-backed “terrorism”.

The opposition, however, had insisted that the regime commit in writing to the Geneva I communique, which called for a transition process.

It urged Syria to form a transitional governing authority that “could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups”.

The opposition has also been asking for the release of thousands of prisoners in government detention.

Mr Brahimi said he expected the talks on Monday to follow Sunday’s format; he would hold a joint session with the government and opposition in the morning before meeting the sides separately in the afternoon.

The UN envoy said he had been encouraged by the atmosphere at the talks on Sunday, saying they had been characterised by “respect and exchange”.

No direct words had been exchanged between the delegations but the two sides were talking to each other through him.

Syria’s civil conflict has claimed well over 100,000 lives since it began in 2011.

The violence has also driven 9.5 million people from their homes, creating a major humanitarian crisis within Syria and for its neighbours.

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