Damascus Negotiators Meet UN Envoy At Geneva Peace Talks

Assad Representatives Expected At Syria Talks In Geneva

Nasr Hariri, head of the newly-unified Syrian opposition delegation, told reporters in Geneva on Monday that he was aiming for a negotiated removal of Assad.

He noted that both Assad and the opposition said they were willing to discuss the issues of a political settlement within the context of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, also made clear in an update to the UN Security Council yesterday, that the opposition delegation has to get their position in line with the reality on the ground.

Damascus had initially refused to confirm it would attend the talks, which began November 28, because the opposition was maintaining its demand that President Bashar al-Assad be removed.

"It's very good that the Syrian government delegation will come to Geneva, because this will make it possible for Damascus representatives to express their point of view and come up with the relevant assessments".

The Syrian civil war, now in its seventh year, has killed over 340,000 people and sparked the world's worst refugee crisis, driving some 11 million from their homes.

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The meetings of the first day of the Geneva talks ended with a single meeting.

"Negotiations in Geneva can be prolonged, but at most until Saturday", a government source said.

"What is important is that we have an ongoing process of discussions", he stressed.

"There is a difference between the Geneva and Sochi talks because the Geneva talks are just an worldwide entitlement and we have seen the extent of the foreign countries influence on the participants in previous rounds", Omari said.

Hariri said the reformulation of the opposition team in Geneva removed any excuse for the government and its chief diplomatic backer, Russia, to circumvent the United Nations talks. He wants an "inclusive process" that can ultimately draft and ratify a new constitution.

Meri, meanwhile, said the eighth round of talks, which started on Wednesday, will be a "failure". Hariri also met with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield, who offered similar support. A source in the Syrian Foreign Ministry told the SANA news agency that the government chose to participate following "intensive contacts, held during the past two days between the Syrian and Russian sides". The Damascus team will again be headed by Bashar Ja'afari, Syria's representative at the United Nations in NY, the official said.


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