The opposition delegation wants to speak about a transitional replacement for President Bashar al-Assad, but Syrian government negotiators insist talks must address “terrorism” in the country.
International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has been mediating, meeting separately with each side.
In New York, UN Security Council experts on February 14 started difficult negotiations on a resolution demanding immediate humanitarian access in all areas of Syria.
A Western and Arab-backed draft text threatens sanctions if demands aren’t implemented within 15 days.
But Russia – a staunch ally of Assad’s regime – is proposing a rival text that doesn’t mention sanctions or any kind of enforcement.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said attempts to negotiate a peaceful solution to Syria’s civil war “will take some time.”
“There is no military solution here,” Harf told reporters. “If you think of all the options militarily, those would bring incredible, even more incredible suffering on the Syrian people. The best way to end their suffering is actually through a diplomatic solution. But we’re not naïve about the fact that this will take some time.”
Harf also expressed alarm and blamed Assad’s regime for reports of continuing violence in Syria while the Geneva peace conference is underway:
“It is horrific that in the time we are negotiating, more Syrians are being killed,” Harf said. “But that’s not because we’re negotiating. We’re negotiating to end it. It’s because you have someone in charge of Syria who is willing and able to brutally kill his own people.”
Reports from Syria say government forces were shelling rebel positions near the southwestern village of Yadouda early on February 15 after a car bomb outside of a village mosque exploded there on February 14, killing dozens.
Meanwhile, a deal brokered in Geneva by Brahimi for the evacuation of civilians from the historic central district of the city of Homs was put on hold February 14 – despite an announcement that a cease-fire there has been extended through the weekend.
The delay of the Homs evacuation comes after reports that some 200 males between the ages of 15 and 55 who tried to join evacuees from the rebel-held district of Homs earlier in the week were detained and still being held by government forces.
In the U.S. state of California, U.S. President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan were expected to meet on the evening of February 14 for talks focusing on the conflict in Syria.
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