Syrian govt, opposition reps meet UN envoy
Updated: 2014-01-25 20:47
GENEVA - Syrian government and opposition representatives sat together Saturday in a joint meeting with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, tentatively initiating talks to end their three-year-old war.
According to sources from the UN Information Service of Geneva, the two sides "are now meeting together with the Joint Special Representative at the UN Office at Geneva."
The session gave rise to some hope after a rocky start to the international conference on Syria, dubbed Geneva II, which saw acrimonious exchanges between the two sides.
"We came with positive spirit and open mind to discuss everything with the other delegation. This is why we are here," Bashar Ja'afari, Syria's permanent representative to the UN, said earlier.
He acknowledged the core issues would not be discussed on the first day of talks. "Today is about format," he said.
Geneva II marks the first time that representatives of both the government and the opposition have entered direct negotiations since the onset of the conflict.
They were originally supposed to start direct talks on Friday. However, the process did not proceed as scheduled, and Brahimi spent two days mediating between the two parties.
Friday afternoon, Louay Safi, a spokesman for the major opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), accused the government of lacking goodwill and attempting to run away from the political process.
But Ja'afari said the opposition delegation's failure to show up earlier "means they have some kind of confusion somewhere at some level."
"We are committed," he said.