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Mediator: Syria, Opposition Will Have Face-To-Face Meeting

On 'Morning Edition': NPR's Deborah Amos reports from the Syria peace talks

Update at 12:36 p.m. ET. A Face-To-Face Meeting:

After arduous talks about talks, there seems to be some kind of breakthrough in Geneva, Switzerland, this afternoon: International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said delegations from the Syrian government and its opposition will meet face-to-face for the first time on Saturday.

According to Reuters, Brahimi told reporters that both sides had accepted the principles of the Geneva Communiqué.

"We do expect some bumps on the road," Brahimi said according to Reuters. And then he added a meaty caveat, saying "there are different interpretations on some of those items" on the communiqué.

As we've reported, one of the key disagreements is over the part of the Geneva Communiqué that calls for a "Syrian-led political process leading to a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."

The opposition has taken that to mean that President Bashar Assad must go. Assad's delegation, as you may imagine, has interpreted it differently.

A delegate of the opposition told Reuters Saturday's meeting will be short and only Brahimi will speak.

Our Original Post Continues:

The difficulty of negotiating a cease-fire 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 Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime met separately — and not for long — with a U.N.-appointed mediator.

Although there were reports that the delegation representing Assad had threatened to leave Geneva, Deborah adds that diplomats from the U.S. and other nations brokering the discussions believe it 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 fulfilled.

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

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.