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Direct talks possible between Syria’s warring sides: United Nations envoy

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura looks during the intra-Syrian talks at the UN office in Geneva, Switzerland, July 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The United Nations special envoy for Syria has raised the possibility of direct talks between Damascus and opposition negotiators before the next round of peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva.
Staffan de Mistura made the prediction on Thursday during the seventh round of the Geneva talks, which started on Monday and will wrap up on Saturday.
He ruled out the probability of the Saudi-backed Syria opposition bloc, High Negotiations Committee (HNC), uniting with the Moscow- and Cairo-based opposition groups for direct talks with the Syrian government during the ongoing round of the Geneva talks.
Asked whether such a meeting could take place before the 8th round of the Geneva discussions scheduled for late August, de Mistura replied, "Perhaps even earlier."
"I'm not pushing for it. Because I want, when it happens, that there should not be a row but should be real talks. We are actually pushing for areas where they do have common points,” he added.
The UN official made the remarks before a meeting with Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian government's chief negotiator and ambassador to the UN. Jaafari has already held two official meetings with de Mistura in Geneva this week. 
Syria's chief negotiator and ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari (L) and UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (R) attend negotiations during the intra-Syrian talks, at the UN office in Geneva, Switzerland, July 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Syria's opposition groups have recently held technical talks, with HNC negotiator Basma Kodmani saying, "We're coming together on substance, not just principles but operationally."
Syria’s warring parties have also attended five rounds of peace talks brokered by Iran, Russia and Turkey in the Kazakh capital, Astana. The Astana discussions produced a memorandum of understanding on de-escalation zones in Syria that sharply reduced fighting in the Arab country.
The negotiations are aimed at bringing an end to the foreign-backed militancy in Syria, which began in March 2011.
Earlier this week, de Mistura told Russia’s Sputnik news agency that opposition groups had achieved significant progress in coming closer together on the issues of Syria's future and constitutional reform, noting that "the opposition's stance is now not that far even from Damascus."
Last month, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syria’s opposition groups, which are being sponsored by foreign countries, were progressively losing their power.
He further hailed a “rather sound processes in different groups of Syria’s opposition” aimed at resolving the Syria conflict.

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