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Syrian Government Rejects Direct Peace Talks

Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) and head of the government delegation to the peace talks Bashar al-Jaafari gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Geneva on March 16.

Chief Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari has refused to start direct talks with opposition representatives, as peace talks entered a third day in Geneva.

Jaafari said on March 16 he would not meet the lead negotiator for the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Muhammad Alloush, face-to-face until he apologized for insisting that a political transition must start in Syria with President Bashar al-Assad's fall or death.

Speaking after meeting with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, Jaafari accused Alloush of membership in a terrorist group.

Opposition leaders said on March 15 that they were ready to meet face-to-face with government negotiators.

Assad's future is a major sticking point at the negotiations on a political solution to end the five-year conflict in Syria.

The HNC has insisted that Assad step down before the start of a transitional period, which Damascus has ruled out.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and the BBC