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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Syrian government delegation returns to Geneva after a week off  

The delegation left the Swiss city for a weekend break and didn't come back  

In or out? UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has been talking to Syria's opposition delegation in Geneva, but the Syrian government delegation has just agreed to come back after more than a week off. Geneva. Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
In or out? UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has been talking to Syria's opposition delegation in Geneva, but the Syrian government delegation has just agreed to come back after more than a week off. Geneva. Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

The Syrian regime's delegation returned to Geneva on Sunday to resume UN-brokered peace talks after leaving in protest nine days ago.

The delegation left the Swiss city on Saturday December 2 for a weekend break and did not return the following Tuesday, December 5, the day that UN mediator Staffan de Mistura had set for discussions to resume. He said the Syrian government representatives had informed him of their intention to fly back to Geneva on Sunday.

He also said that he would assess this week whether either side is trying to "sabotage" the process.

US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson also expressed the need for the regime to participate in the talks. “With respect to the Syrian regime and [Syrian president] Bashar Al Assad’s role in the peace discussions in Geneva, we have said to the Russians it’s important that the Syrian regime be at the table and be part of these negotiation and part of the discussion,” he said.

Mr Tillerson said that the talks will lay out the development of a new constitution that will move towards an elections process where all “Syrians will have an opportunity to voice their views on the future of Syria.”

Talks continued with the UN throughout last week even without the government delegation. Bassma Kodmani, a senior member of the Syrian opposition coalition (SNC) said they had discussed the constitution and elections in detail.

The UN peace envoy convened an eighth round of talks with the government and unified opposition delegation on November 28, focusing on constitutional reforms as well as elections.

Headed by Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Al Jaafari, the delegation is set to stay in Geneva until December 15.But the regime arrived a day late and left after two days, accusing the opposition of "mining the road" to the talks by insisting that president Bashar Al Assad could not play any interim role in Syria's political transition. The future role of Mr Al Assad has been a main sticking point in all UN attempts to to get the government and the opposition to agree a plan for Syria's future.

During the first week of talks, Mr de Mistura shuttled between the two negotiating teams, who were installed in separate rooms off the same corridor. He said face-to-face contact was less important than the substance of talks, and that the atmosphere was "professional and serious" on both sides.