Syria peace talks not making much progress, says envoy

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Homs, in western Syria, has been under siege for 18 months by government troops. Reuters
U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says peace talks between delegates from the Syrian government and opposition to President Bashar al-Assad are laborious and not making much progress.
Tuesday\’s meeting in Geneva was the second day of a new round of talks aimed at getting the parties to negotiate an end to nearly three years of fighting and set up a transitional government.
During a press conference, Brahimi said they are doing their best to make the process "take off," saying cooperation is needed from both sides, as well as, outside parties.
"The beginning of this week is as laborious as it was in the first week. We are not making much progress," he said.
Brahimi says he plans to meet Friday with U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.
The Reuters news agency reported that Syria\’s government delegation said no agenda had been agreed to and said the government blamed the opposition for refusing  to discuss the issue of  "terrorism."
"Another lost day because the representatives of the coalition insisted that terrorism in Syria does not exist and did not want to discuss it," Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said after the meeting, according to Reuters.
Syrian opposition spokesman Monzer Akbik said during Monday\’s meeting with Brahimi that his side laid out their vision of a transitional government in Syria.
At the start of Tuesday\’s talks, delegates said a minute of silence was observed for people killed in the three year conflict after a first round of talks last month failed to make significant progress.
"I hope that the minute of silence will signal an improvement in the atmosphere this time,\’\’ opposition delegate Ahmed Jakal told Reuters.
Meanwhile, U.N. refugee agency officials say several hundred men evacuated from the battered city of Homs were detained for interrogation by government forces.
Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UNHCR, says 338 male evacuees aged between 15 and 55 had been taken in for questioning.  She says a total of 42 were released, but the remainder were still being held by authorities.
“We are trying to make sure that all civilians who want to get out of Homs can get out and we are doing our very best under the most complicated, dangerous circumstances imaginable to ensure that as many lives can be saved as possible,” she said. 
More than 800 people have been evacuated from the rebel-held city since Thursday.
Homs was the birthplace of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria\’s civil conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 2011 and has driven 9.5 million people from their homes.
Source: VOA and agencies

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