Mediator Brahimi to meet separately with warring Syrian sides

U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is due to meet Thursday in Geneva with representatives of the Syrian government and opposition, as he tries to mediate an end to nearly three years of deadly violence.

Brahimi will meet separately with each side and discuss how to proceed to the next step of direct negotiations. Those talks were scheduled to begin Friday, but Brahimi said Wednesday after the opening of a long-awaited peace conference that the separate meetings may continue.

He also said there are “fairly clear indications” that the government and opposition are prepared to talk about humanitarian access, freeing prisoners and establishing local cease-fires.

The first day of the peace effort brought more than 40 delegations to the Swiss city of Montreux, and was marked by a sharp divide over President Bashar al-Assad’s future in Syria.

The goal of the conference is to set up a transitional government, which the opposition and supporters such as the United States say cannot include Assad, while the Syrian government says he will not step down.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “enough is enough” in Syria, calling the civil war there a breeding ground for extremists and terrorists.

He said he did not expect instant breakthroughs from the peace talks, but that the Syrian people are trapped in a nightmare and “desperately looking for relief.”

Iran, Syria’s top regional ally, was not a part of the conference. Iran was uninvited when it rejected a possible transitional government for Syria. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran’s exclusion means the talks are likely to fail.



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