Syrian opposition tries to negotiate release of detainees

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As Syrian peace talks continue at the UN in Geneva, mediator Lakhdar Brahimi says they are concentrating on confidence-building measures in order to establish a positive atmosphere before tough political talks on Monday.

Members of the opposition said they were trying to negotiate the release of up to 47,000 detainees or at least a shortlist of 2,500 priority cases.

Monzer Akbik, a member of the Syrian opposition delegation, said: “We give priority to women and children and the most vulnerable detainees, for example people who are ill or who need medical care, we give priority to that.”

The city of Homs has been besieged by government fighters for the past 18 months, trapping the civilian population and cutting off humanitarian aid. The opposition delegation says around 500 families remain in the city, and are in urgent need of aid.

One unidentified resident of the city said: “We want the Geneva talks to break the siege and make safe passages to get us out of here. I need an operation on my leg. Enough is enough. We have been under siege for one year and eight months and you know we don’t want Ban Ki-moon and the rest to worry about us any more. They’ve been worrying about us for more than a year and seven months, poor things.”

The UN says that the crisis has seen more than 130,000 deaths and two million refugees, and that around half the country’s population is in need of aid.

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