U.N. Restarts Syria Talks With Fresh Format, Same Challenges

U.N. Restarts Syria Talks With Fresh Format, Same Challenges by Tom Miles, Reuters

Syria peace talks in Geneva this week should prosper from a tighter format and a recent deal to reduce the violence, U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura said on Monday, playing down dismissive comments by President Bashar al-Assad.

Previous rounds of talks have produced agreement that the warring sides will discuss a four-part agenda, but no progress has yet been made on any topic.

Under pressure from international backers, the two sides have agreed to discuss a new constitution, reformed governance, new elections and the fight against terrorism, but they differ sharply over what those agenda items mean.

Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, is keen on discussing "terrorism", a term he uses broadly to describe all adversaries. Opposition negotiators have demanded Assad's removal, something his backers think is fanciful in the face of his recent military advances in the civil war, now in its seventh year…

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