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Saudi-Backed Syrian Opposition Sending Delegates To Geneva Talks

Syria's largest mainstream opposition group says that it will attend UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva, ending a boycott that had threatened to derail the talks.

However, the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee said it would only send delegates "to participate in discussions" with the United Nations, not for negotiations."

The group has been boycotting the talks until it receives guarantees on aid deliveries to besieged, opposition-held cities in Syria.

It said it would send 30 to 35 representatives to Geneva just hours after a Syrian government delegation started talks there with the UN's Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the group's decision to join the talks.

De Mistura said he hoped to meet with the Saudi-backed delegates on January 31.

Representatives of Syria's Kurdish population, which controls much of the territory in northern Syria, also were missing at the opening of the shuttle diplomacy that has been organized by De Mistura.

But reports from Geneva suggested the presence of Kurdish representatives was being discussed, and Russian authorities have said they would not object to the participation of Kurdish delegates.

The meetings began earlier on January 29 with De Mistura meeting with a Damascus delegation led by Syria's ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, TASS, and Interfax