Syria peace talks enter a second day

Staffan de Mistura (2nd left) faces Syrian ambassador to the UN and head of the government delegation Bashar al-Jaafari (4th right above) at the opening of Syrian peace talks with the Syrian government delegation at the United Nations Offices in Geneva (01 February 2016)Image copyright

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The talks in Geneva are part of an 18-month peace process outlined in Security Council resolution 2254 that includes a transitional period ending with elections

Syria peace talks are continuing into a second official day in Geneva, after a first meeting on Monday between the opposition and UN diplomats.

For several days it was unclear whether the opposition would participate in the talks at all.

The opposition team had initially demanded a lifting of sieges, an end to airstrikes and the release of prisoners before coming to Geneva.

The negotiations will be, as the UN had always planned, proximity talks.

The Syrian government team is expected at the UN on Tuesday morning, the opposition in the afternoon.

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The talks are taking place as fighting in Syria intensifies

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UN. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura met opposition groups on Monday

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The Syrian government has accused the opposition of not being serious about peace

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says the fact that both sides are participating is being seen as positive, but the opposition is waiting for a sign that the government will respond to its calls for humanitarian measures, such as the lifting of sieges.

The Syrian government has said the opposition is not serious about peace.

More than 250,000 people have died in almost five years of war in Syria.

Eleven million others have fled their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other, as well as jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State (IS).

Representatives from Syrian opposition groups said they had a positive meeting with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura on Monday.

They are waiting for the outcome of the UN’s discussions with government officials on Tuesday before deciding whether to formally join the peace process.

Opposition spokesman Salim al-Muslat said Russia should stop its attacks against opposition forces immediately.

“We came here to discuss Resolution 2254 with the special envoy… Lifting the siege, stopping the crimes that are done by the Russian air strikes in Syria, and I believe we received in fact very positive messages from the special envoy,” he said.

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All sides concede the talks could easily be derailed

While the UN special envoy publicly demanded such measures too on Monday, on the ground in Syria the fighting seems to be intensifying, with government troops attacking rebel held positions around Aleppo.

Our correspondent says that without some action by the Syrian government to relieve the humanitarian situation for civilians, it may be difficult for the UN to move these talks forward to a wider discussion on a ceasefire and a political transition.

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