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Assad Representatives Arrive At Syria Talks In Geneva


Nasr al-Hariri, the head of the Syrian rebels' delegation, arrives in Geneva on November 28.

Syrian government negotiators arrived in Geneva on November 29 for UN-backed talks aimed at ending the civil war.

Damascus had initially refused to confirm it would attend the talks, which began on November 28, because the opposition was maintaining its demand that President Bashar al-Assad be removed.

But the United Nations announced that Damascus negotiators would arrive on November 29, reportedly after securing key concessions, including keeping the Assad issue off the table.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on November 28 received a message saying that the government delegation was "planning to arrive tomorrow," UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told a news briefing in Geneva on November 28.

The negotiations have achieved little in the seven previous rounds, but there are hopes the latest may make some progress in ending the six-year conflict.

Opposition representatives, united in one delegation for the first time, met de Mistura on November 28.

A day earlier, rebel delegation chief Nasr al-Hariri had told reporters that his camp was still insisting on Assad's removal as part of any peace deal, defying calls for moderation.

But keeping the Assad issue off the table may also suit de Mistura, who says he wants this round to focus on a new constitution for Syria and UN-supervised elections.

De Mistura had voiced hope that the coming round would mark the first "real negotiation" on a possible deal to end the war, which has claimed more than 340,000 lives and left Syria in ruin.

He has also warned the opposition that intransigence on the Assad issue might no longer be tenable.

In September, he said the opposition needed to be "realistic" and accept that "they didn't win the war."

With the help of Russian military support, the Syrian regime has made major advances against its opponents, seizing back large chunks of the country.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

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