Assad's team stays away from peace talks

GENEVA/BEIRUT — Talks on ending the six-year war in Syria resumed on Wednesday with no sign of President Bashar Al-Assad's delegation returning to the negotiations in Geneva after they walked out last week.

A source close to the Syrian government's negotiating team told Reuters the delegation was still in Damascus on Wednesday.

The talks began last week and after a few days with little apparent progress, the UN mediator Staffan de Mistura said that the government delegation, led by Bashar Al-Ja'afari, was returning to Damascus to "consult and refresh".

De Mistura expected talks to resume "around Tuesday", but Ja'afari left Geneva on Saturday and said he might not come back because the opposition had stated that Assad could not play a role in a future interim government.

Syrian officials have not yet said if Ja'afari will return to the talks, but opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi said on Monday that a government boycott would be "an embarrassment to Russia", which is keen to see a negotiated end to the war.

The opposition negotiating team arrived at the UN offices in Geneva on Wednesday morning to resume talks with de Mistura, who declined to comment late on Tuesday when asked about the absence of Ja'afari's negotiators.

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.

Several earlier attempts to forge peace in the war-torn country have failed with Assad rivals sticking to their point that the embattled president will not have any role in the country's future. — Reuters