UN envoy urges Syria's warring sides to save Homs

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BEIRUT (AP) — The United Nations envoy to Syria on Thursday said the besieged central city of Homs has become a "theater of death and destruction," and he urged both sides in the country's civil war to return to negotiations.

In a statement, Lakhdar Brahimi called on Syrian government officials and opposition leaders to resume talks that broke off in February. The central city has seen some of the worst fighting in the 3-year-old conflict.

An agreement on a weeklong cease-fire that allowed more than 1,000 civilians to leave Homs' rebel-held areas was hailed as the only achievement of the recent Geneva peace talks that Brahimi mediated.

The deal did not hold, however, and fighting between President Bashar Assad's forces and the rebels trying to overthrow him has raged for weeks in Homs.

The U.N. Security Council met late Thursday on the humanitarian situation in Homs but emerged without having reached agreement on a press statement proposed by Britain.

Instead, the current council president, Nigerian Ambassador Joy Ogwu, announced press elements that included members' "grave concern" about the impact of the violence on civilians in Homs and a call for "immediate" implementation of a resolution passed earlier this year that calls on all sides in the conflict to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.

That resolution was a rare agreement by the council on Syria. Russia, a key ally, has blocked three previous resolutions that would have pressured Assad to end the conflict.

The French ambassador to the U.N., Gerard Araud, tweeted after the meeting that "Russia against UNSC call to the regime to lift the siege of Homs." There was no immediate response from the Russian mission's press officer.

Syria's ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Ja'afari, told reporters after the meeting that "this sudden hyper-diplomatic activism by France and Britain is a little bit awkward and weird."

The U.N.'s humanitarian chief has sharply criticized the Syrian government's lack of progress in allowing in desperately needed aid. Valerie Amos briefed the council Thursday but made no comment to reporters.

After the meeting, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said in a statement, "The situation in the Old City of Homs is dire. The United States appeals to all those U.N. member states with influence on Damascus to pressure the regime to return to the negotiating table with the opposition's negotiating committee."


Associated Press writer Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed.

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