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Peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition began again in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, with mediator Lakhdar Brahimi meeting both sides separately.
Peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition began again in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, with mediator Lakhdar Brahimi meeting both sides separately. The talks got underway as aid groups evacuated hundreds of civilians from the Syrian city of Homs.
Brahimi urged both sides to focus on ending the fighting and creating a transitional body, while the government said the first order of business should be combating "terrorism" — the term it uses to describe the groups fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The first round of negotiations in Geneva ended last month with no real progress. The only tentative gain came after talks had already finished, when the Syrian government agreed to the evacuation of some civilians from the city of Homs.
A ceasefire that went into effect on Friday and allowed aid agencies to evacuate hundreds of civilians from Homs was extended on Monday, according to United Nations officials.
As of Sunday, the Red Crescent said it had evacuated 600 people. About 60 parcels of food and more than a ton of flour were delivered over the weekend to people who have been trapped by the siege for more than 600 days.
The Syrian Red Crescent confirmed that 300 more people had been evacuated from Homs on Monday:
Group of around 300 people have been evacuated just now from old city #Homs
— Syrian Red Crescent (@SYRedCrescent) February 10, 2014
Footage of the people being evacuated showed exhausted and frail women, children and elderly men.
"We had nothing. All the children were sick, we even had nothing to drink," said one woman, surrounded by her three children.
More than two years ago, Homs was a very different place, as Senior Correspondent Tracey Shelton found when she spoke to a family that had escaped the siege in June 2012.
"I loved Homs. It was my home. Before the revolution it was beautiful," said a woman named Maha. "We had to flee. There were snipers everywhere. We had to leave everything behind. This dress is all I have left."
From the account of the World Food Programme's Middle East spokeswoman:
— Abeer Etefa (@AbeerEtefa) February 8, 2014
More from GlobalPost: Inside Syria: There's no place like Homs
A Syrian man described the conditions in Homs:
The evacuation went forward over the weekend, despite several attacks on aid convoys.
This footage (via the Associated Press) shows pone such attack on Saturday:
"A meeting between the UN and the governor of Homs is underway. In principle, the ceasefire will be extended, and will try to get civilians out as soon as possible," a Syrian Red Crescent source told Agence France-Presse earlier on Monday.
This footage from AFP shows a convoy delivering aid that was also hit on Saturday: