Syrian rivals resume peace talks in Geneva

The first round of talks ended with no firm agreements from the government and the opposition

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Negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition reconvened on Monday as the second round of the Geneva II peace talks began.

Last month, the first round of talks ended with no firm agreements from both sides on the deadly conflict in Syria, although U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had said that some "common ground" had been reached and that the “ice was breaking.”

Brahimi had also voiced hope that Russia and the United States would exert greater influence over the two sides of the Syrian conflict to bridge “quite large” gaps. Both sides had been trading insults at each other throughout the first round.

In a letter reviewed by Reuters on Monday, Brahimi increased pressure on the two sides to show willingness in the peace process.

He said he would talk to the two Syrian sides on their own for the next few days in hope of improving the negotiating atmosphere.

In the eight-page document, dated Feb 7, which was given by Brahimi to both delegations at the weekend, he asked them to make a commitment at the start to deal with the two main issues: stopping the fighting and working out discussions of a transitional governing body.

“The two issues are among the most complex and sensitive and both subjects need treatment over several sessions and long discussions,” the document said.

“But the future of this political process and the possibility of its success require a clear declaration from the outset that the two parties have the full and strong political will to deal with these two issues, with all that they require - courage, persistence and tenacity and openness to reach successful solutions to all the issues, no matter how complicated and thorny.”

The talks come a day after hundreds of people were evacuated from the besieged city of Homs under a three-day truce.

The humanitarian deal for Homs was the first concrete result of talks launched two weeks ago in Geneva to try to end the country’s nearly three-year-old civil war that has killed over 136,000 people.

The government insists the talks focus on fighting "terrorism," but the opposition says that the priority should be the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

The opposition has insisted that the government commit to the 2012 Geneva I communique, which called for the formation of a transitional government.