De Mistura: Direct Syrian Talks in Upcoming Rounds

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The UN Syria envoy closed the latest round of sputtering peace talks Friday insisting "incremental progress" was made, driving hope that face-to-face negotiations between armed opposition and the Damascus regime may soon be possible.

Syria's government and opposition negotiators could soon hold face-to-face talks for the first time, United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday, the penultimate day of a round of peace talks in Geneva.

"We have made, as we were expecting and hoping, incremental progress. No breakthrough, no breakdown, no one walking out", de Mistura said after briefing the UN Security Council by video on the seventh round of talks. So far, the sides have been meeting separately with de Mistura.

According to the Chinese envoy, it is also important to adhere to the principle of self-determination in the political process of the Syrian issue, that is, to let the Syrian people to decide their own future.

He noted, however, that there was an increase in "mutual trust" between different Syrian opposition groups.

Government delegation chief says direct meeting with opposition was not raised with his team at Geneva talks. On Thursday, US President Donald Trump said the United States and Russian Federation were discussing the second ceasefire agreement in Syria.

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Assad's government and the opposition repeated long-held positions before leaving Geneva on Friday.

Al-Jaafari said in his statements to the press in the Swiss city that the talks focused on combating terrorism and the legal issues pertaining to a new Constitution were the central topics with the opposition. Because I want, when it happens, that there should not be a row but should be real talks.

Assad's delegation has declared the president's fate off-limits, while the opposition wants the matter to be part of the negotiations.

The Chinese envoy, on his fourth trip to Geneva for peace talks on Syria, said that another priority now for the talks is to consolidate the ceasefire on the ground and at the same time achieve some periodical results.

The new round of the Intra-Syrian Talks kicked off here on July 10, which United Nations officials said was aimed at simplifying peace negotiations to wind down the almost seven-year civil war.

The United Nations reports the Syrian war, which has entered its seventh year, has killed about 400,000 people, displaced more than 6 million within the country and prompted almost 5 million to flee as refugees to neighboring countries.

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