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Syrian Government To Attend Geneva Peace Talks

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem (file photo)

The Syrian government has announced it will send a delegation to Geneva to take part in UN-sponsored indirect peace talks with the opposition.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters on March 12 that the government team will head to Geneva on March 13 but will not stay more than 24 hours if the opposition does not show up.

The talks are scheduled to begin on March 14.

The last round of indirect talks collapsed on February 3 during a Russian-backed government offensive in Aleppo. The new round of negotiations comes amid a two-week partial cease-fire that has mostly held.

The High Negotiations Committee, a Saudi-backed umbrella opposition group, said it will attend the talks and press for a transitional governing body with full executive powers in which President Bashar al-Assad and his associates would have no role.

The dispute over the fate of Assad has been the main obstacle in previous rounds of talks.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has called for presidential elections in the next 18 months, but Moallem dismissed the idea.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the UN-sponsored peace talks should go ahead as planned, but that Russian and U.S. monitors are meeting first to discuss alleged cease-fire violations.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP