Brahimi: 'little common ground' between Syria rivals
Gaps between the rival Syrian sides remain “wide,” U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters during a press conference wrapping up the first round of the Geneva II peace talks. He added that he observed a “little common ground.”
While the rival sides are not committed to stop the fighting, peace talks between Syria’s regime and opposition have made slim progress, according to Brahimi.
“This is a very modest beginning, but it is a beginning on which we can build,” Brahimi told reporters after a week of closed-door negotiations.
Before Brahimi’s press conference, Syrian information minister Omran Zobi said Damascus will make “no concessions” in peace talks with the opposition.
“Neither in this round, nor in the next will they (the opposition and their allies) obtain any concessions from the Syrian delegation,” Agence France-Presse quoted Zobi as telling a group of pro-regime demonstrators outside the United Nations’ European headquarters in the Swiss city.
Friday’s closing session was expected to be largely ceremonial, with government and opposition delegates expected to meet again on Feb. 10.
Meanwhile, nearly 1,900 people have been killed in Syria since peace talks opened in Switzerland on Jan. 22, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.
At least 498 civilians were among those killed in the fighting, which has shown no let-up since the government and opposition started the talks.
On Friday, activists told the Associated Press that Syrian government shelling killed at least 16 people in a rebel-held area of the northern city of Aleppo, and at least one man was killed Friday inside Lebanon in cross-border fire from Syria, according to a security official.
In the northern city of Aleppo, government forces continued to unleash barrels packed with explosives and fuel from military helicopters over rebel-held areas. The crude barrels cannot strike targets with precision and cause massive damage upon impact.
The shelling has taken place as Syrian troops on the ground inch closer to rebel-held parts of Aleppo, which the opposition seized in July 2012.
In the cross-border attack, Syrian government tanks fired into northern Lebanon to prevent rebels on the border from fleeing to Lebanese territory, said the security official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.
According to the official, over a dozen shells exploded near a belt of rural communities stretching 19 kilometers along the Lebanon-Syria border in the mountainous northern Lebanese rural province of Akkar.
The barrage killed a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon and wounded two Lebanese.
Such shelling has occurred as Syria’s conflict increasingly spills over into its smaller neighbor.