Syrian opposition calls for direct talks with Assad regime in Geneva

Representatives from Syria's government and the armed opposition were due to meet at the UN's Geneva headquarters on Thursday to begin roundtable discussions mediated by UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura.

The Syrian peace talks resumed in Geneva on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a Syrian journalist covering the Geneva talks told Xinhua that ambiguity overshadows the first two days of the talks, in terms of the lack of information emerging about the possible path of the negotiations.

The UN Special Envoy for Syria estimated in August previous year that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the Syrian crisis until then.

The Syrian opposition's delegation to the UN-led peace talks in Geneva confirmed that they wanted direct negotiations with the regime representatives.

De Mistura shuttled between the two sides during three previous rounds of Syria talks in Geneva a year ago.

De Mistura says he's hewing to goals outlined in a U.N. Security Council resolution from 2015 that call for a political transition process.

"We will be very reluctant to engage in pre-conditions, and in fact I will be refusing them", he said.

An intense air and artillery bombardment of rebel-held suburbs on the western outskirts of Aleppo, where the army and its allies advanced on Wednesday, killed 24 insurgents, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The conflict, now into its sixth year, has left hundreds of thousands of women, men and children dead and millions more dependent on aid both within the country and beyond Syria?s borders.

European powers that back the rebels hope that Russian Federation will be swayed by the prospect of the European Union helping with the bill for Syria's reconstruction - expected to run to tens of billions of dollars - if all sides can seal a political agreement to end the conflict.

He did not specifically mention the United States, which is backing the rebels.

The Syrian opposition insists President Bashar al-Assad must leave office as part of any deal, while Damascus has said the president's future is not open for negotiation.

"We have heard from Mr.de Mistura positive ideas and suggestions, I believe he is more enthusiastic to be engaged seriously in political transition", he said.

The draft UNSC resolution also seeks to ban the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian regime and to blacklist 10 regime and related entities involved in the development and production of chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

De Mistura said Russia had indicated earlier at a closed-door United Nations "cease-fire task force" meeting in Geneva on Wednesday that Russian authorities had asked Assad's government to "silence their own skies in areas touched by the cease-fire" as the talks proceed.

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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