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New round of Syria talks off to acrimonious start

GENEVA — The second round of Syrian peace talks began Monday with the warring sides exchanging public accusations and presenting widely divergent views on how to proceed toward a settlement to end the conflict.

The U.N. envoy chairing the talks, Lakhdar Brahimi, did not hold his regular news conference at the end of the day. Instead he put out a statement saying the talks centered chiefly on questions "relating to the cessation of violence and terrorism and the establishment of a transitional governing body."

Diplomats tracking the talks predicted that the current round would fail, as did the initial round at the end of January.

Despite the acrimony, the two sides did agree to extend a "humanitarian pause" in the besieged city of Homs for three more days, allowing the evacuation of civilians wanting to leave the old city district and the delivery of food shipments.

Valerie Amos, the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, announced the extension, which came after a difficult weekend in Homs — where a relief team was struck by mortar rounds and sniper fire.

Still, a senior U.N. official said more than 800 of the estimated 2,500 civilians thought trapped in the old city district had managed to leave since Friday and food deliveries had been made.

Amos denounced the weekend attacks on the U.N. aid convoys, which she said killed 11 people. But she carefully avoided blaming either side.

New round of Syria talks off to acrimonious start 02/10/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 12:14am]
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