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peace negotiations Syrian government delegation arrives for Geneva UN talks

UN peace talks

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan di Mistura, left, with Bashar al-Jaafari, Syrian chief negotiator, in Geneva on Wednesday


A Syrian government delegation arrived in Geneva on Wednesday, a day later than expected, to attend United Nations-sponsored peace talks being held this week - the eighth round since 2016.

The delegation, led by Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari, had delayed its planned departure for the talks because of the opposition's insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down. Russia reportedly helped persuade the Syrians to attend.

+ Read about the shifting background to the UN talks in Geneva

The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said on Tuesday the government and opposition would have a chance to negotiate directly for the first time, but it was not certain if they would do so.

A breakthrough in the talks is viewed as unlikely as Assad and his allies, including Moscow, push for total military victory in Syria's civil war, and his opponents continue to demand he leave power.

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.

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. and agencies/sb

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