Syria talks: Prisoner exchanges on Geneva agenda

Opposition negotiators, seen arriving at the Geneva peace talks venue and they want the Syrian president to step down.
Opposition negotiators, seen arriving at the Geneva peace talks venue and they want the Syrian president to step down.

BBC Online :
Syrian government and opposition delegations are expected to discuss prisoner releases on their second day of face-to-face peace talks in Geneva.
On Saturday the talks focused on safe routes for aid convoys into besieged parts of the city of Homs. UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi called the discussions a “good beginning”.
He said the issues being discussed were a prelude to tackling the key question of establishing a transitional government for Syria.
“We haven’t achieved much but we are continuing,” he told reporters after Saturday’s talks. Mr Brahimi said he was trying to build confidence by broaching humanitarian issues first.
“We are moving in half-steps,” he said, adding that by trying to make progress on humanitarian issues, he was aiming to “create an atmosphere” that would eventually enable advances on the 2012 Geneva I communique, which set out a blueprint for peace talks.
“Ending terrorism and violence” is the top priority, Syrian officials say. They insist it is too early to discuss President Bashar al-Assad’s position.
In the first meeting, the two delegations filed in through separate doors into one room in the UN Geneva Headquarters, and sat down at the same U-shaped table, but said nothing to each other.
Mr Brahimi said another two-hour meeting had taken place in the afternoon. He admitted no direct words had been exchanged but said the two sides were “talking through me to one another.
“This is what happens in civilised discussions,” he said, where sides addressed each other via the chairperson.
“I think it’s a good beginning,” he said, adding he was “praying for some good news” to come on humanitarian issues on Sunday.
Homs Opening a corridor to allow humanitarian aid into areas of Homs is thought to be under discussion
Syrian opposition chief negotiator Hadi al-Bahra © arrives with delegation member Anas al-Abda (L) Opposition negotiators, seen here arriving at the talks venue, want the Syrian president to step down
Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian government’s ambassador to the United Nations and a member of the Syrian government delegation Syria’s Ambassador to the UN told the BBC talking about President Bashar al-Assad’s position was “not the priority”
Sunday’s meeting will focus on the issue of imprisoned and kidnapped people in Syria.
Negotiators would “see if something can be done to secure the freedom of at least some of the people deprived of their freedom”, Mr Brahimi said. Syria’s civil conflict has claimed well over 100,000 lives since it began in 2011. The violence has also driven 9.5 million people from their homes, creating a major humanitarian crisis within Syria and for its neighbours.
The opposition and government are fundamentally divided over the aims of the conference.
The government delegation has said the main issue of the talks is finding a solution to foreign-backed “terrorism”, by which it means the whole of the armed opposition.
The opposition, however, had insisted that the regime commit in writing to the Geneva I communique, which called for a transition process.
The communique urged Syria to form a transitional governing authority that “could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups”.