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UPDATE 2125 GMT: United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said after Wednesday’s indirect talks that he does not expect any substantial outcome in the first round of discussions ending on Friday, but that he hopes for a more productive second round starting about a week later:
We talked about the TGB (Transitional Governing Body), but of course it is a very, very preliminary discussion and more generally of what each side expects.
I am very happy that we are still talking, but the ice is breaking slowly.
The opposition said that the Geneva I communique of June 2012 has been agreed as the basis for talks about Syria’s political transition>
The Assad delegation, which has insisted that President Assad cannot be forced to step down said that it would consider the text of Geneva 1 “paragraph by paragraph” and that the first step is to discuss “terrorism”.
Meanwhile, there was still no movement towards delivery of aid to besieged areas of Homs.
“We also tried to see what is happening over the humanitarian issues, in particular about Homs. Negotiations between the United Nations and the Syrian authorities are still ongoing,” Brahimi said.
The UN envoy said on Saturday that the step had been agreed as a confidence-building measure, but the UN has failed to get confirmation from the Assad regime. An aid convoy of 12 trucks has been waiting for days in a warehouse 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Homs.
UPDATE 1345 GMT: The opposition delegation is claiming “a step forward” after Wednesday morning’s indirect talks at the Geneva II conference.
“Today we had a positive step forward because for the first time now we are talking about the transitional governing body, to end dictatorship and end the fighting and the misery in Syria,” opposition spokesperson Louay Safi told reporters.
He added he hoped for “more progress in the coming days”.
Neither the Assad delegation, who were in the same room with the opposition, or United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi offered comments.
Safi said the Assad delegation had tried to focus the talks on “issues of terrorism” but claimed they were willing to discuss the framework of Syria’s political future.
“We have not really discussed details, but the general framework for the discussions about the transitional governing body,” Safi said.
OPENING SUMMARY: The talks at the Geneva II conference on Syria were suspended on Tuesday morning, as the Assad delegation criticized a decision by the US Congress to support insurgents.
After the opposition presented a detailed plan for political transition, the regime raised its objection to American backing of “terrorists”:
The world is surprised to find one of the initiators of the conference, namely, the United States of America, and in a step that moves in the opposite direction to all political efforts exerted, and in contradiction to Geneva 1 [communique of June 2012] in letter and spirit, the United States has made the decision to resume arming terrorist groups in Syria.
The session soon closed, and United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (pictured) suspended the afternoon session.
The envoy insisted, “Nobody is walking out, nobody is running away. We have not achieved any breakthrough, but we are still at it, and this is good enough as far as I’m concerned.”
Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi, played down the clash, saying in an interview that the two sides had spent “10 minutes laughing” at a quip by the Syrian Ambassador to the UN.
However, al-Zoubi, maintained the criticism of Washington: “Russia is working with the Americans to find a political solution, and suddenly they find a solution which contradicts the initiative. Do they want to destroy Geneva?”
And Deputy Foreign Minister Feisal Mikdad said, “The international community must now decide who supports terrorism and who wants this conference to fail or succeed.”
The US returned the allegations through a State Department spokesman in Geneva:
The Assad regime is a magnet for terrorists. The regime’s brutality is the source of the violent extremism in Syria today. We support the moderate political and military opposition who are fighting for the freedom and dignity of all the Syrian people.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov backed up the Assad delegation. He argued that any weapons supplied to opposition fighters will inevitably end up being used by the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham, which has been fighting insurgents for almost a month.
There has been no indication if the Assad delegation will return to the discussion of a political transition on Wednesday.
The regime’s officials, saying that the President will not step down, have asserted that talks must focus on foreign-backed “terrorism”.
Meanwhile, there was still no indication that a 12-truck convoy would deliver aid to besieged areas of Homs, as Brahimi had tried to broker last Saturday. Both the Assad and opposition delegations indicated that the UN was still in negotiations with officials in Damascus.
The World Food Program spokeswoman, Elisabeth Byrs, noting the agency had distributed food to 687,000 people at 50 other locations in Homs Province last month, said the WFP has been unable to get supplies into the Old City of Homs for more than a year.
Another UN representative said the aid for the Old City was being held in a warehouse 10 kilometers (six miles away), as it waited for the regime’s go-ahead.