The 7th round of U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva began yesterday with the participation of the U.N.'s envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura amid efforts to end the six-year conflict.
A partial ceasefire agreement that was announced Friday - brokered by the U.S., Russia and Jordan – went into effect on Sunday in southern Syria.
U.N. negotiations are focused on four separate "baskets:" System of governance, a new constitution, elections and efforts to combat "terrorism" in the war-ravaged country.
The last talks had ended in May with little progress made in terms of finding a permanent solution to the conflict.
De Mistura said after the latest round of talks that "important gaps remain. ...on major issues," adding that time constraints had stymied progress.
The fate of Syria's Assad regime remains a daunting roadblock to negotiations. Syria's opposition insists that Assad must step down as part of any political solution to the civil war, while the regime says Assad's fate is not up for discussion.
Still, both sides are expected to participate in talks once again, with Yehya al-Aridi, a spokesman for the opposition High Negotiations Committee, telling the AFP he has "modest expectations."
The Geneva talks began in 2014 and six previous rounds of U.N.-backed negotiations have failed to yield concrete results, while hopes for a major breakthrough remain bleak.
Since March 2011 when civil war erupted in Syria, more than 250,000 people have been killed, according to the U.N. The Syrian Center for Policy Research puts the death toll at more than 470,000. Despite the heavy toll of the Syrian civil war on both sides, the Assad regime has also gained momentum. Over the last year, Assad has strengthened his position on the ground, while opposition forces are reeling from a major setback in the capital city of Damascus.
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