Syrian Officials, Opposition to Meet at Geneva Talks

UN Special Envoy Negotiates Deal for Sensitive Talks

by Jason Ditz, January 23, 2014

United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has been engaged in behind-the-scenes negotiations with the participants in the Geneva II peace conference, especially those who have already walked out during the first day.

The negotiations have borne some fruit now, and Syrian government officials have agreed to Friday talks with the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) rebels.

Not that this amounts to some major breakthrough, and the Friday talks will continue with an extremely limited agenda, as officials try to get the sides comfortable with talking to one another.

Still, this is the first thing about Geneva II that has remotely resembled progress, and Brahimi said that the talks could extend into next week as a result. Other observers say that the entire process is likely to take months.

The biggest struggle is that while the Syrian government had been on the books attending months ago, the SNC didn’t agree to until this week, and then saw their coalition split in half with opponents of the talks walking out. This didn’t give the UN a lot of advance time to meet with the delegates to find out their positions, and all of that prep work is now being done at the conference instead.

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