(Geneva) – UN-backed Syria peace talks resumed in Geneva with little hope of a breakthrough and the emboldened regime seen as unlikely to make concessions.
UN deputy special envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy met separately with government negotiators and the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) at hotels in the Swiss city.
“We have started today preliminary talks,” Ramzy told reporters after his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s representatives. “We hope we will be starting substantive discussions tomorrow.”
Ramzy’s boss, UN mediator Staffan de Mistura, was wrapping up a diplomatic tour of the key powers shaping the conflict, which included trips to Moscow, Riyadh and Ankara.
De Mistura is due back in Geneva on Thursday evening to take charge of the negotiations which have yielded little in four previous rounds.
A stalemate persists over most of the toughest issues, notably Assad’s fate, with the opposition insisting he quit power and the government declaring the president’s future off limits for discussion.
HNC delegation chief Nasr al-Hariri told reporters after meeting Ramzy that his camp was in Geneva to “guarantee the departure of Bashar al-Assad and his clique”.
The UN is aiming for a political deal to end a six-year conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with protests against Assad’s regime. On the agenda for this round is governance — a political transition, the constitution and elections — as well as counter-terrorism at the request of Damascus.