Syria's warring parties to hold face to face talks
SYRIA'S warring parties broke through a key hurdle in agreeing to meet face to face last night after the government had threatened to walk away from talks.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy who is chairing talks in Geneva, said both sides had accepted that the negotiations would be based on principles agreed 18 months ago to establish a "transitional governing body by mutual consent".
Before this week the Syrian government had never explicitly accepted the so-called "Geneva 1" communique and sub- sequent UN Security Council resolution setting that out, but the opposition made it an explicit condition of talking directly to the regime.
"Tomorrow we have agreed that we will meet in the same room," Mr Brahimi said last night. "The whole process is based on the Geneva communique and I think the two parties understand that very well and accept it."
The opposition Syrian National Coalition, supported by Western powers, says the communique implies that President Bashar al-Assad must step down, as it would never consent to his being part of a transitional government.
The regime has said it is up to "the Syrian people" to decide who rules them.
Its UN ambassador said the regime accepted it in its entirety, but Bouthaina Shaaban, a presidential adviser, said yesterday it was "not the Bible" and was open to question. (© Daily Telegraph, London)