At Syria Talks, Two Sides Don't Even Sit Down With Each Other

Peace talks in Geneva have begun, but it's been a fitful start. The two sides can't agree on where to begin the discussions, and on Friday didn't even sit down in the same room.

The difficulty of negotiating a ceasefire or end to the civil war in Syria were underscored Friday by word from Geneva, Switzerland, that representatives from the two warring sides didn't even sit down in the same room for talks about the talks.

Instead, NPR's Deborah Amos said on Morning Edition, representatives from the opposition and from President Bashar Assad's regime met separately — and not for long — with a U.N.-appointed mediator.

Though there were reports that the delegation representing Assad had threatened to leave Geneva, Deborah adds that diplomats from the U.S. and other nations that are brokering the discussions believe that was a negotiating tactic.

The key sticking point at this time, she says, is the opposition's insistence on immediately including discussions about a transitional government in the talks. The Assad regime does not want to take up that issue. So Friday's goal — to talk about the talks — wasn't really fufilled.

The day's difficult discussions follow Wednesday's opening session, which as we reported was marked by "accusations and acrimony."

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