Syria killing accelerates; peace talks falter

February 13, 2014 - 6:07:07 am

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad addresses the media after a meeting at the Geneva Conference on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva yesterday.

BEIRUT: Syrians have been dying in greater numbers than ever since peace talks began three weeks ago, activists said yesterday, as troops pounded rebel towns on the Lebanese border and negotiations faltered in Geneva.

More than 230 people have been killed every day in Syria since January 22, when international mediators brought President Bashar Al Assad’s government and its opponents together, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. That is more than in any other three weeks since the war began in 2011.

Yesterday, Assad’s army and fighters from Lebanese ally Hezbollah pounded the strategic border town of Yabroud where rebels prepared to resist a ground offensive.

There was little sign of an early breakthrough on the third day of a second round of talks in Geneva.

The opposition, which has little sway over rebels fighting on the ground, called for a transitional governing body to oversee a UN-monitored ceasefire and expel foreign fighters in a paper that avoided any mention of Assad — whose departure the government delegation has refused to discuss.

The confidential paper did not draw an immediate official response from the government, although the foreign minister said driving out foreign fighters could be worth discussing in time — rare common ground.

Concern about talks running into the sand prompted the mediator in Geneva, Lakhdar Brahimi, to bring forward by a day to today a meeting with Russian and US officials in an effort to get Washington, which backs the rebels, and Assad’s ally Russia, to press their proteges.

Russia said it would veto a UN resolution on aid, saying its wording seemed meant to open the way for foreign military action.

And a foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow said Barack Obama had “intentionally distorted” the Russian position in remarks the US president had made on Syrian aid on Tuesday.

REUTERS

 

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