Damascus delegation arrives in Geneva with constructive instructions - Russian envoy

The UN Special Envoy for Syria on Thursday welcomed participants in the latest round of intra-Syrian peace talks, as well as members of the UN Security Council and representatives of the International Syria Support Group.

Previous rounds of UN-brokered talks in Geneva have failed as the opposition has demanded the quick resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, while the government has rejected such a scenario.

A fresh round of peace negotiations has started between representatives of the Damascus government and the foreign-backed opposition in the Swiss city of Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations.

This latest round of talks, known as "Geneva IV", appears unlikely to resolve the war in Syria that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 people, created the world's worst refugee crisis and fueled the rise of the Islamic State.

Staffan de Mistura's comments came on the eve of a new round of talks in Geneva between negotiators from Syria's regime and the opposition after a 10-month hiatus.

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Mistura said he hoped to bring them together later in the day, but a tentatively-planned fternoon event was delayed amid disagreement over arrangements.

"We want to see real seriousness on the negotiations table, this is why we demand direct negotiations to save time because every day costs us and the Syrians more souls, starvation and sieges".

Russian Federation and the United States were the prime movers behind the last peace talks, which halted as the war heated up.

"During this round of talks we discussed the format of upcoming meetings. exclusively", Ja'afari told reporters after about two hours of discussions. The talks are the first UN-mediated negotiations on Syria in nearly a year. "No, I am not expecting a breakthrough", de Mistura said, adding that he hoped this round could lead to further talks on a political solution.

Moscow has been aiding Syrian forces with air attacks since 2015.

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The talks are part of the latest political initiative to bring an end to a six-year war that has killed almost 500,000 people, wounded more than a million, and displaced almost half the country.

In those meetings, the rebels sat face-to-face with a government delegation - a first - and the exiled political opposition was present only on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Russia announced that it has asked the Syrian government to halt all military operations for the duration of the talks, while other countries were expected to deliver the same message to the rebels. The opposition insists it must include President Assad's departure, while the Syrian government says only elections can decide Mr Assad's future. Countries close to the opposition were also asked to urge them to lessen provocations, he said.

The government delegation says Assad's status is not up for debate at the talks and contends that the 2012 Geneva agreement does not require his ouster.

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