Syrian government and opposition attempt direct talks after years of war


The opponents in Syria's civil war are sitting down at the same table for the first time after eight and a half years of bloodshed to work on a new constitution.

At noon on Wednesday, 150 delegates including 50 each from the government, opposition and civil society will launch the UN-brokered talks in Geneva.

Russia and Iran, the allies of the government, and Turkey, which backs the opposition, see this so-called Constitutional Committee as a chance to build trust and to move towards a broader political process that could end the conflict.

"We urge the sides to reach agreement," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference on Tuesday evening at the Swiss UN seat, after meeting his Turkish and Iranian counterparts, as well as UN Syria envoy Geir Pedersen.

While Iran's top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif pledged that the three regional powers would not intervene in the process, his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said he was optimistic but aware that the talks would be difficult.

The three regional powers will not take part in the intra-Syrian negotiations.

Several previous rounds of UN-mediated Syria talks have yielded no outcome, as the government and opposition failed to engage in substantive talks.

UN envoy Pedersen cautioned this week that "the Constitutional Committee alone cannot and will not resolve the Syrian conflict."

In addition to the talks, confidence must be built on the ground, especially by finding solutions for the thousands of prisoners of war and abductees, the Norwegian UN diplomat said.    (dpa)

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