Syrian regime delegation to return to Geneva on Sunday

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
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The delegation for the Syrian regime has decided to return to Geneva for peace talks with the moderate opposition in the United Nation's mediated negotiations, the Syrian state news agency reported yesterday.

According to the report, which quoted a Syrian Foreign Ministry source, the regime delegation will join the talks next Sunday.

The delegation, led by Bashar al-Jaafari, walked out last week and returned to Damascus. Negotiations resumed on Wednesday without the Syrian government delegation.

The talks began last week, and after a few days with little apparent progress, U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura said that the government delegation was returning to Damascus to "consult and refresh."

The government delegation blamed its departure on the opposition's uncompromising stance on Bashar Assad's future. Last month, the opposition drew up a statement in a meeting in Riyadh that rejected any future role for Assad in Syria.

During last week's sessions, de Mistura shuttled between the representatives of the two warring sides, who did not meet face-to-face. He had planned to continue the round until Dec. 15.

The opposition delegation arrived at the U.N. offices in Geneva on Wednesday morning to resume talks with de Mistura.

France accused the Syrian regime on Wednesday of obstructing the peace talks with its refusal to return to Geneva and called on Russia not to shirk its responsibilities to get Damascus to the negotiating table.

More than 340,000 people have died in the six-year war, half of the population has been displaced and the country lies in ruin.

The U.N. envoy said he expects reconstruction to cost $250 billion.

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