Syrian government and opposition delegates began a fresh round of U.N.-brokered peace talks today, but prospects for common ground appeared unlikely as the two sides traded accusations over weekend violence that disrupted food distribution meant to ease the plight of civilians.
The mediator, U.N envoy "Lakhdar Brahimi", began holding separate closed-door meetings with the government and opposition delegations to try to set an agenda for the coming week.
The first face-to-face meetings adjourned 10 days ago having achieved little beyond getting the both sides into the same room. The opposition insists the talks' aim is to agree on a transitional governing body. The government delegation wants to focus on halting terrorism. Brahimi pushed for agreement on aid deliveries during the first round last month, hoping such confidence-building measures would build momentum, but even such small steps were not achieved during the talks.
A deal was clinched last week for a three-day truce in parts of Homs to secure the evacuation of hundreds of trapped civilians and the entry of humanitarian aid convoys. That effort was disrupted Saturday as trucks carrying supplies into Homs came under heavy fire. The aid effort resumed Sunday, with more than 600 people evacuated from Homs.
Violence this week has also disrupted U.N. food parcels destined for the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk near Damascus. Fighting across the country has also escalated since the first round of talks, during which nearly 2,000 people were killed according to activists.