Negotiators for Syria's combatants arrived at a United Nations complex for peace talks on Thursday amid expectations the rival teams will be encouraged to hold face-to-face discussions, in what would be a small breakthrough in efforts to end the six-year-old war.
The U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, met the eve in Geneva with representatives of the permanent members of the Security Council in order to prepare the eighth round of peace negotiations.
The head of the Syrian regime delegation said that the regime refuses to engage in any direct talks with the opposition delegation and that the HNC must drop its demand that Bashar Assad leaves during the transitional phase in Syria.
"We decided that we should continue having this meeting in the UN Headquarters in Geneva, this will be the first official meeting that we will be holding with the delegation of the Syrian government, and then we will continue tomorrow as well", he said. But for the first time Syria's opposition has sent a unified delegation, raising the possibility of direct talks across one table.
Syria's Delegation Held Talks with de Mistura in Geneva
The Syrian opposition delegation in Geneva said things were "positive", now that the opposition is united.
Damascus had initially refused to confirm it would attend the talks, which began on Tuesday, given the rebels were maintaining their hardline stance on the president's removal.
Hariri said the opposition had no preconditions for talks, but planned to discuss all the details of the political transition, including Assad's fate.
"We are all moving, I hope, in the direction of implementing Resolution 2254 and a political solution long overdue in Syria", he said. With the help of Russian military support, the Syrian regime has made major advances against its opponents in the past two years, seizing back large chunks of the country. In February, de Mistura infuriated Ja'afari by inviting both sides to a ceremony to inaugurate the talks.More news: Bulls' Nikola Mirotic accepts Bobby Portis' apology