Syria to join next round of Geneva talks

The Deputy Foreign Minister has confirmed a government delegation will attend the talks.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Picture: AFP.

BEIRUT - Syria's deputy foreign minister said on Friday the government would take part in a second round of peace talks on Syria's civil war in the Swiss city of Geneva, state media reported.

The 'Geneva 2' peace conference, which had its first round of talks earlier this month, brought Syria's warring sides together for face-to-face negotiations for the first time since the nearly three-year-old conflict began.

State news agency SANA cited Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal as saying the government delegation would attend the talks and demand a discussion "article by article" of the Geneva Communique, the document agreed by the United Nations and world powers as the basis for talks.

Much of the talks were dominated by debate over the basis of negotiations outlined in the Geneva Comunique. The document calls for an end to violence in a civil war that has killed over 100,000 people and the formation of a transitional government.

President Bashar al-Assad's delegates want to focus on halting "terrorism", the term they commonly use to describe the rebels fighting to end four decades of Assad family rule. The opposition wants to focus on forming a transitional government which it insists must not include Assad.

"Restoring peace and stability throughout the Syrian Arab Republic requires putting an end to terrorism and violence, as is said in the Geneva communique," SANA quoted Meqdad as saying.

Meanwhile, about 200 people are expected to leave a besieged area of the Syrian city of Homs on Friday in the first stage of a humanitarian deal to evacuate civilians and allow aid to be delivered, a regional official said.

Speaking to Syrian state television, Homs governor Talal al-Barazi said the atmosphere was "positive" ahead of the operation which is expected to begin around midday and allow women, children and elderly to leave the besieged old city.

The United Nations welcomed reports of the agreement on Thursday, although Washington questioned the sincerity of the government's intentions.

The siege of the old city has gone on for more than a year and activists say 2,500 are trapped inside the area, struggling with hunger and malnourishment.

They represent only a small fraction of besieged Syrians across the country who are in desperate need of aid.