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Questions loom as Syrian peace talks begin, Assad in attendance

"All I can say about the talks is that they will start as planned," U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said. "I don't have a time ... [or] exact locations."

By Marilyn Malara
Questions loom as Syrian peace talks begin, Assad in attendance
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during his meeting with the leadership al-Baath party of Damascus countryside,in Damascus March 8, 2014. Assad is reportedly in attendance at the Syrian peace talks in Geneva although questions loom over who from the opposition will show up. Photo courtesy of Syria's National News Agency | License Photo

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- As the scheduled Syrian peace talks begin amid expanded ambiguity regarding who will attend, U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura told citizens the talks "cannot fail."

Proximity talks were expected to begin Friday after being delayed for nearly a week reportedly due to logisitcal issues and the ongoing question of which opposition parties would be permitted to attend.

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly arrived in the Swiss city in time for negotiations, though conflicting demands from opposition groups present a serious obstacle as to how they will play out.

"All I can say about the talks is that they will start as planned," U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters. "I don't have a time. I don't have the exact locations."

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The High Negotiations Committee, a Saudi-supported opposition group, reportedly announced they would "certainly" not be at Friday's peace talks.

"We could go there but we will not enter the negotiating room if our demands are not met," the committee's leader, Riad Hijab, told al-Arabiya.

Despite the message, BBC reported another senior member of the group, Hassan Abdel, confirmed spokesmembers are on their way to Geneva.

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This week's talks will mark the third attempt at peace negotiations amid the ongoing civil war in Syria, which has left more than a quarter million people dead and some 11 million others displaced. Similar rounds in 2012 and 2014 were marked as significant failures.

On the eve of the talks, envoy de Mistura delivered a message to the Syrian people, calling them to raise their voices, "to say 'khalas,' it is enough."

"You have seen enough conferences, two of them already taken place," he said. "This one cannot fail."

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