Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Peace talks between the Syrian regime and opposition will resume Thursday afternoon after being placed on hold since Monday due to four delegates testing positive for COVID-19.
The talks are set to resume at 2 p.m. local time in the Palais des Nations in Geneva "with full social distancing and related precautions in place," Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary-General for Syria Geir Pederson said in a statement.
He made the decision to resume peace talks "following additional testing and further medical and expert advice," and consultation with co-chairs and committee members, his statement said.
The United Nations did not disclose which delegation among 45 participants tested positive, but opposition sources told Anadolu Agency that they believed that they were from Syria's capital Damascus.
Opposition leader and co-chair of the meeting Hadi al-Bahra said that the Syrian peace talks got off to a good start Monday but were halted after the United Nation said four delegates were COVID-19 positive.
"The nature of those cases is such that the Third Session of the Constitutional Committee Small Body can resume its meetings," Pederson said, referring to the four COVID-19 cases, in his statement.
Though follow-up testing showed that the earlier positive cases do not pose any risk, Pederson said that the talks would only proceed among those whose COVID-19 tests came back negative.
The constitutional committee consists of representatives from Syrian government, the opposition and civil society. Participants were tested for COVID-19 before and after their arrival in Geneva, and they were required to wear masks and social distance.
The four positive COVID-19 cases were discovered a few hours after the meeting began Monday, which forced the 45 members to quarantine in a hotel where they continued their work online.
The aim of the talks is to work on drafting a new Syrian charter that could lead the way to U.N.-sponsored elections in agreement with a stalled 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced an earlier meeting to be postponed in March.
Since then, thousands have died, and millions of people have become refugees, including 6.6 million refugees fleeing to neighboring countries and 6.7 million internally displaced in Syria. Turkey alone hosts 3.6 million refugees from Syria, the largest number of refugees displaced outside of Syria.