Syria peace talks in Geneva focus on political issues

United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura attends a news conference following Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan January 24, 2017.

Battlefield gains by President Bashar Assad's forces against Western-backed rebels, a new diplomatic push led by Turkey and Russian Federation, and uncertainty about the Trump administration's strategy on Syria - the USA has been largely on the sidelines in recent months - have raised questions about prospects for the latest attempt to silence Syria's guns and return the country to peace.

The last time warring parties convened in Geneva was in April previous year, a month which saw talks being put on hold amid a humanitarian meltdown and systemic violence in the middle east country.

More than 300,000 people have been killed and half the population displaced since 2011, when government forces launched a brutal crackdown on protesters calling for Assad to step down.

De Mistura said he hoped that the Geneva talks would create a momentum so that both sides enter into political discussions on a transition government, on a new constitution and on elections.

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Speaking to TRT World on the sidelines of the Geneva talks, the spokesperson of Free Syria Army (FSA) Issam al-Reis said the opposition "preferred direct negotiations" and that they expect to get "a clear vision [on] what the [Assad] regime is coming here for".

Referring to the delegation led by Jaafari, he said: "We have experience with this regime. They failed to control Iran", Hariri said, referring to another key Assad backer.

However, he was planning to hold meetings with the representatives from both sides on Friday (24 February) to establish a procedure for the talks.

The talks come as Turkish troops and Syrian opposition forces seized the center of the Islamic State-held town of al-Bab, breaking a weeks-long deadlock between the two sides at the periphery of the town, according to Turkey's state news agency.

"Let's try to work together to end this frightful conflict and lay the foundation for a country at peace with itself, sovereign and unified", he noted.

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The UN's special Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura has hoped Syria peace talks would be fruitful.

He did not specifically mention the USA, which is backing the rebels.

The Assad government has repeatedly decried Turkey's troop presence as a violation of Syrian sovereignty and an act of aggression, but the two sides have not faced off.

"The position is constructive but in contrast to what we can hear from opposition representatives arriving from Riyadh, who again put forward, as a prior condition, an absurd demand on immediate resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad", Borodavkin said.

"The opposition delegation will focus on a proposition to form a transitional governance body", he said, adding that it would "present a complete plan on the topic including how it will be executed based on worldwide resolutions".

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The government delegation says Assad's status is not up for debate at the talks and contends that the 2012 Geneva agreement does not require his ouster.