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New Round Of Syria Peace Talks Begins In Geneva As Fighting Flares

Negotiators in the latest round of talks aimed at ending Syria's five-year-old civil war have begun to meet in Geneva, with the UN's Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, hosting a delegation of the main opposition group.

The envoys from the opposition High Negotiations Committee arrived at the UN envoy's office on the evening of April 13 for the third round of indirect "proximity" talks.

A delegation from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government is due to arrive in Geneva later this week.

The UN-brokered talks are aimed at forming a transitional government to bring an end to a conflict that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced half of the country's population.

A partial truce brokered by Moscow and Washington in February had raised hopes for a lasting resolution until a recent escalation in fighting in Aleppo and Hama provinces and Damascus.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said fighting was making it difficult to convene political talks.

Meanwhile, an election was under way on April 13 in government-held parts of Syria for a new 250-member parliament.

Damascus says the vote is constitutional and separate from the peace talks in Geneva.

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa