Syrian government, opposition meet in same room for peace talks

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REUTERS
Delgates from the Syrian government and opposition have met for the first time in the presence of the UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. 
Syria\’s government and the main opposition have met in the same room for the first time but did not speak to each other at the start of long-awaited peace negotiations in Geneva. 
In a meeting on Saturday, the two sides came together in the same room but refused to speak directly.
Instead, the UN mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, passed messages between the two groups. The meeting lasted an hour and no statements were released afterward.
Brahimi had spent two days meeting the groups separately and, late on Friday, said: "I think the two parties understand what is at stake. Their country is in very, very bad shape. And I think that the people who are here representing the Opposition and the Government understand that as well as I do, or better. It is their country after all.  
"So the huge ambition of this process is to save Syria. No less than that."
On Friday, Syria\’s government threatened to leave Switzerland if "serious talks" did not begin by Saturday. The opposition, which agreed to the peace talks only under intense diplomatic pressure, had been reluctant to sit face-to-face with a government it insists must yield power.
But the government says it is there only to talk about fighting terrorism – the word it uses for its enemies – and that no one can force Assad to go.
Brahimi said the two parties were going to work Saturday and Sunday so neither would be leaving the conference.
In Homs – where President Bashar al-Assad\’s forces have surrounded rebel-held areas for more than a year – the practical steps needed to get humanitarian aid in have been worked out, and could take place quickly if agreed, Reuters news agency cited an official as saying.
Syria\’s civil conflict has claimed well over 100,000 lives since it began in 2011.
The violence has also driven 9.5 million people from their homes, creating a major humanitarian crisis within Syria and for its neighbours.
Source: Agencies

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