Syria\’s government has threatened to walk out of peace talks with the opposition if the two sides do not begin what it called "serious sessions" by Saturday.
The ultimatum, aired on Syrian state television, came as the two parties failed to meet face-to-face, as expected, Friday, the first day of formal peace talks in Geneva.
Government and rebel representatives instead are meeting in separate rooms, with United Nations peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi shuttling back and forth.
The rival delegations have shown no sign of compromise and both have threatened to pull out of the long-delayed talks, which began Wednesday with feisty opening statements in Montreux.
The opposition says it will not negotiate directly with the Syrian government, unless it agrees to discuss the departure of President Bashar al-Assad. Damascus has refused, accusing the rebels of supporting terrorism.
Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba on Thursday declared there should be no doubt the Syrian "regime is dead." But he said it is important the talks move forward.
"The negotiations will be difficult. There is no easy negotiation. But the road of one thousand miles starts with one step."
Syrian opposition and government representatives met separately Thursday with Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, who had previously expressed hope that both sides would be able to meet Friday for the first time since the civil war began.
The official goal of the so-called Geneva 2 talks is to form a Syrian transition government, though analysts say the chances for achieving this goal are slim. Instead, more modest achievements, such as allowing humanitarian aid to civilians, are expected.
Meanwhile, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri called on Syrian rebels to stop their infighting and focus on the battle against President Assad. Al-Zawahri delivered the message in an audio recording posted on websites used by militant groups.
Al-Qaida-linked insurgents, who do not recognize the peace talks, have clashed in recent weeks with other rebel groups.
Syria\’s civil conflict has claimed well over 100,000 lives, the UN says.
The violence has also driven 9.5 million people from their homes, creating a major humanitarian crisis within Syria and for its neighbours.
Source: VOA and agencies