Syria talks resume, but peace elusive

After a 10-month freeze, delegations from Syria's warring parties arrived in Geneva on Wednesday ahead of another round of talks aimed at ending the brutal, five-year-old civil war.

GENEVA (REUTERS) - Delegations from Syria's warring parties arrived in Geneva on Wednesday (Feb 22) ahead of another round of talks to begin on Thursday after 10 months in deep-freeze.

The head of the Syrian opposition negotiating team Nasr al-Hariri arrived and was shortly followed by many opposition negotiators and delegation members.

The government side is headed by Syria's UN ambassador Bashar Ja'afari who arrived in Geneva.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military advances, with Russian and Iranian help, have transformed the battlefield since the last UN talks broke up without progress in April 2016. With Mr Assad militarily stronger than he has been for years, it has the option of pressing home its advantage on the ground if it does not get its way at the negotiating table.

The political context is similarly unrecognisable, with new leadership in Washington and the United Nations and tentative coordination between Turkey, Russia and Iran.
But while a ceasefire exists, at least nominally, across most of Syria, there has been little movement on the issues that dogged previous rounds of talks.

The Syrian government side is expected to stick with its view that the entire armed opposition are terrorists, while the opposition will press for prisoner releases, the lifting of government sieges, and above all for a political transition leading to the end of Mr Assad's rule.