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Walid Muallem

Syria’s government and opposition have traded insults after a week-long peace conference in Geneva ended with no firm agreement.

Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the opposition representatives were immature, while the opposition’s Louay Safi said the regime had no desire to stop the bloodshed.

However, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he had seen some “common ground”, and scheduled more talks for February 10.

The opposition has agreed to take part, but Walid Muallem refused to commit.

“We represent the concerns and interests of our people. If we find that [another meeting] is their demand, then we will come back,” he told reporters.

He railed at the opposition, saying they had tried to “implode the conference” by insisting that the government hands power over.

Louay Safi said the opposition would not sit in talks “endlessly”, and urged the government to “talk seriously about transferring power”.

Opposition leader Ahmed Jarba said he and his colleagues had “stood up to the regime, a regime that only knows blood and death”.

Lakhdar Brahimi is optimistic despite slow progress at Geneva talks on Syria

Lakhdar Brahimi is optimistic despite slow progress at Geneva talks on Syria

The two sides discussed humanitarian issues and possible ways to end the violence.

They made some agreements on local ceasefires to allow access for humanitarian workers.

UN aid chief Valerie Amos said the deals had allowed some aid to get through to a few thousand families.

But she said that, so far, an agreed ceasefire in the besieged city of Homs had not had any effect, and no aid has got through.


Parts of Homs have been under government siege for more than 18 months. More than 100,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

Lakhdar Brahimi said: “Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged in an acceptable manner. This is a very modest beginning, but it is a beginning on which we can build.”

Though the gap between the two sides was “wide”, they had become used to sitting in the same room, he said.

“There have been moments when one side has even acknowledged the concerns and difficulties of the other side,” he said.

The first round of talks between the government and the opposition National Coalition began last week.

Both sides agreed to use a 2012 document known as the Geneva Communiqué as a basis for discussions, and agreed to meet in the same room.

But neither side could agree on the focus, with the opposition insisting that political transition was the focus, and the government wanting to talk about terrorism.

Diplomats described the atmosphere between the two sides as extremely tense all the way through the conference.

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Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has said Damascus is ready to offer a prisoner exchange with rebels.

Speaking in Moscow, Walid Muallem also said he had presented a ceasefire plan for the second city Aleppo to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

The moves came as the opposition Syrian National Coalition meets in Istanbul to decide whether to go to next week’s peace conference.

The coalition is under Western pressure to participate in the Geneva II talks.

However, many of its members have already pulled out.

Some are reluctant to go unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is excluded from any transitional government, but Damascus says there should be no pre-conditions for the talks.

Meanwhile Lebanese security officials said rockets fired from Syria had hit the Lebanese border town of Arsal, killing at least six people, among them at least one child, and injuring at least 15.

Speaking in Moscow, Walid Muallem said he had presented a ceasefire plan for the second city Aleppo to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov

Speaking in Moscow, Walid Muallem said he had presented a ceasefire plan for the second city Aleppo to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov

Arsal, in the Bekaa valley, is predominantly Sunni and its residents have been broadly supportive of the Sunni-dominated uprising against President Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shia Islam.

It has been flooded with refugees since the Syrian military launched an offensive nearby in November.

The three-year conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

An estimated two million people have fled the country and some 6.5 million have been internally displaced.

Walid Muallem said he was ready to exchange lists of prisoners.

“I informed Lavrov of our principled position in favor of an agreement to exchange those held in Syrian prisons for those taken by the other side,” he said.

“We are ready to exchange lists and develop the necessary mechanism for accomplishing these goals.”

The Syrian foreign minister added that he had given Russia a ceasefire plan for Aleppo, which he said he wanted to “serve as an example to other towns”.

But correspondents say it remains far from clear that even a partial ceasefire could be achieved.

On Thursday, the two foreign ministers held talks with Iranian officials.

Sergey Lavrov said there was “no hidden agenda” to their meeting.

“This does not mean that we have some tri-party (peace) draft,” he told reporters.