US, Russia pledge to unblock Syria talks, Brahimi says

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Some 9.5 million people across Syria have been forced to flee their homes.
The United States and Russia have pledged to help unblock stalled negotiations between Syria\’s two warring sides, international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said on Thursday.
Brahimi met in Geneva Thursday with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov and U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman.
Brahimi said with failure staring him in the face, Moscow and Washington have both kindly reaffirmed their support and promise to help unblock the peace process.
He said until now, no one has made much progress.
The talks are now in their second round in Geneva. Brahimi has been meeting with representatives from the Syrian government and its opposition. He said he will leave no stone unturned if there\’s a possibility of moving forward. 
The talks that began on January 22 were initiated by Washington, which backs the opposition, and Moscow, a key ally of Syria.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia is presenting two draft U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria. The first would open the door to more humanitarian aid. The second addresses ways to fight terrorism, which the Syrian government has stressed in the peace talks. Syria uses the word "terrorists" to refer to the rebels. 
Russia is Syria\’s main ally. It has objected to a Western-Arab draft resolution on humanitarian aid as one-sided against President Bashar al-Assad and threatens to block it.
In the meantime, a spike in fighting between the Syrian government and opposition forces has sent the country\’s death toll soaring.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Thursday reported that at least 51 people were killed a day earlier in Aleppo alone – mostly civilians in air raids targeting opposition-controlled areas. Dozens more were killed in the south.
The Observatory has reported an average of 236 people killed daily since the so-called Geneva 2 peace talks began in late January, bringing regime and opposition representatives to the negotiating table but producing no concrete results.
In Switzerland, the opposition National Coalition laid out a transition plan, including evicting foreign fighters and a process towards elections, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported.
But the government refused to discuss it, saying the first item on the agenda was the battle against rebel "terrorism".
Syria\’s civil conflict has claimed more than 130,000 lives since 2011 and has driven 9.5 million people from their homes.
Source: Agencies

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