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Damascus Negotiators Meet UN Envoy At Geneva Peace Talks

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura

Syrian government negotiators have met with UN mediator Staffan de Mistura in Geneva for talks aimed at ending the more-than-six-year civil war.

Damascus initially refused to confirm it would attend the eighth round of UN-sponsored talks after the opposition maintained its demand that President Bashar al-Assad be removed.

But a government delegation held initial meetings with de Mistura in the Swiss city on November 29, reportedly after securing that the Assad issue would be kept off the table.

Opposition representatives, united in one delegation for the first time, met the UN special envoy for Syria on November 28.

Delegation chief Nasr al-Hariri told the Reuters news agency on November 29 that the opposition wants Russia and other states to put "more pressure" on Assad to engage in the negotiation to reach a political solution in six months.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria and millions have been driven from their homes since the conflict began in March 2011 with a crackdown on antigovernment protests.

Russia supports Assad's government and provides air support for government forces. Iran also backs Assad, while the United States and Turkey support differing rebel groups.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters