UK & World News

  • 25 January 2014, 9:15

Syria Rivals 'To Meet Face-To-Face' At Talks

Syria's regime and opposition have agreed to meet together in the same room at peace talks in Geneva, a UN mediator has said.

It comes after the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al Muallem, earlier threatened to leave the convention if "serious" discussions did not start within 24 hours.

The ultimatum followed the refusal by the country's opposition to hold face-to-face talks with Bashar al Assad's regime, after it refused to concede to the formation of a transitional government.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Arab League envoy for Syria, spent Thursday and Friday trying to convince the delegations to meet in the same room at the UN headquarters.

He has now managed to keep the peace talks on track, with the warring sides agreeing to come face to face today.

"I met the delegations of the opposition and the government separately yesterday and again today and tomorrow we expect, we have agreed, that we will meet in the same room," Mr Brahimi said.

"We knew that it was going to be difficult, complicated.

"We never expected this to be easy - I think the two parties understand what is at stake."

Mr Brahimi said discussions so far had been "encouraging" but said that talks on concrete issues had not yet started.

He said both sides had agreed that the negotiations would be based on an agreement reached at the "Geneva I" peace conference in 2012.

But Mr Brahimi acknowledged that there were "some differences on the interpretation of some of its items" of the document.

"Among the many things we hope to be able to achieve is to clarify the ambiguity on those points," he said.

The Geneva I agreement calls for the creation of a "transitional governing body", but it does not specifically spell out Mr Assad's future role or lack thereof.

Direct talks are seen by many diplomats as the best hope for an eventual end to Syria's three-year civil war, which has left at least 130,000 people dead.

As the peace talks wobbled, fighting raged throughout parts of Syria, including near the capital, Damascus.

Government forces bombed rebel-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and local activists.

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

Advertisement