A man reacts to the destruction of his home, following a reported Syrian government forces air strike the day before, in the northern city of Aleppo yesterday. The peace talks made little visible progress towards reaching a political settlement for the nearly three-year war, which has claimed more than 136,000 lives and displaced millions of people. Photo: AFP
Syria's warring sides headed yesterday into a new round of UN-brokered peace talks, 10 days after a debut session managed little beyond a pledge on evacuating civilians from the besieged city of Homs.
After government and opposition delegates arrived at their Geneva hotels Sunday, they held separate closed-door meetings with UN and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.
The Algerian veteran peacemaker, who in late January brought the two sides to the table for the first time since the war began in 2011, was scheduled to hold talks with the opposition at 10:00 am (0900 GMT) yesterday.
Then at 11:30, he was to meet with the government delegation, helmed by Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who was also in charge of the regime's team in the first round.
It was not clear yesterday if the two sides would sit down together for a meeting under the auspices of Brahimi, nor how many days the round was expected to last.
The aim is to build on an international conference held in the Swiss city in 2012 at which world powers called for political transition in Syria.
Aid teams, meanwhile, prepared to enter the besieged Old City of Homs in central Syria to evacuate civilians yesterday, braving fighting that saw mortar fire rain down during operations a day earlier.
A source at the Syrian Red Crescent said discussions were still underway on whether an initial three-day truce would be extended to allow the humanitarian operations to continue yesterday.
"Today we will continue the evacuation of civilians via the same routes or new ones," the source said.
"A meeting between the UN and the governor of Homs is underway. In principle, the ceasefire will be extended, and we will try to get civilians out as soon as possible," the source added.
He said aid would also be delivered to besieged neighbourhoods of the Old City of Homs and had been loaded into the buses that would evacuate civilians.