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Syria talks start as Daish strikes at refugee camp

GENEVA

A new round of Syria peace talks opened on Tuesday in Geneva, as two car bombs killed at least six people and wounded several others in Syria’s sprawling Rukban refugee camp near the border with Jordan late on Monday.

Five previous rounds of UN-backed negotiations have failed to yield concrete results and hopes for a major breakthrough remain dim.

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has strengthened his position on the ground, with the rebels reeling from a major setback in the capital Damascus.

Assad has also recently called the Geneva process “null”, telling Belarus’s ONT channel that it had become “merely a meeting for the media”.

The Syrian leader has however given more credit to a separate diplomatic track in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana, which is being led by his allies Russia and Iran along with opposition supporter Turkey.

The Astana track produced a May 4 deal to create four “de-escalation” zones across some of Syria’s bloodiest battlegrounds.

The UN’s Syria envoy Staffan De Mistura has dismissed suggestions that the Astana negotiations were overshadowing the Geneva track.

“We’re working in tandem,” he told reporters on Monday.

Syrian government delegation chief Bashar Al Jaafari was holding an initial meeting with De Mistura at the UN on Tuesday.

The main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), led by Nasr Al Hariri and Mohammad Sabra, was due to meet the UN envoy later in the day.

The UN negotiations are focused on four separate “baskets”: governance, a new constitution, elections and combating “terrorism” in the war-ravaged country.

With Assad’s negotiators and the HNC expected to be in the Swiss city until the weekend, De Mistura said he wanted to drill down on several issues in hopes of generating solid proposals.

But one issue — Assad’s fate — remains a daunting roadblock.

The HNC has insisted the president’s ouster must be part of any political transition, a demand unacceptable to the Syrian regime.

Agencies