For the first time in three years, negotiators representing the Syrian regime and opposition have appeared together under the UN flag.

The military and geopolitical context in the war has changed massively since the last talks almost a year ago.
The military and geopolitical context in the war has changed massively since the last talks almost a year ago. (TRT World and Agencies)

The United Nations has handed a working paper on procedural issues and ideas for a political process to representatives from both the Syrian regime and opposition in Geneva on Friday, the lead negotiators from both sides confirmed.

The second round of peace talks on Syria formally began on Friday in Geneva a day after the UN's Syria envoy called on the war-torn nation's rival sides to seek a deal to end the six-year conflict. The talks are the first UN-mediated negotiations on Syria in almost a year.

The chief Syrian regime negotiator, Bashar al-Ja'afari, said he had received a paper from UN mediator Staffan de Mistura and would study it, but a first meeting had covered only the format of talks.

"During this round of talks we discussed the format of upcoming meetings ... exclusively," Ja'afari told reporters after about two hours of discussions.

"At the end of the meeting de Mistura gave us a paper and we agreed to study this paper. We shall inform him of our position vis-a-vis this paper," he said, without elaborating on the details of what the paper said.

However, his counterpart from the Syrian opposition, Nasr al-Hariri, told reporters that there was a paper "about the procedural issues and some ideas to begin the political process".

Hariri repeated in his news conference that the opposition's priority was to begin negotiations on a political transition with a transitional governing body, suggesting it would not back down on its demands that Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad step down.

"We have heard from Mr. de Mistura positive ideas and suggestions, I believe he is more enthusiastic to be engaged seriously in political transition," he said.

TRT World's Sarah Morice has updates on the talks from Geneva.

First Geneva meeting in three years

For the first time in three years, negotiators representing both the Syrian regime and opposition met face-to-face under the UN flag. They sat opposite across a table from each other for the opening speech of the talks on Thursday.

This is also the first time the opposition delegation has involved representatives of the rebels who are fighting on the ground.

The symbolic move prompted optimism that some headway might be made in ending the conflict. But negotiations opened with envoy de Mistura warning against their failure.

"I'm not expecting miracles," he said at a welcoming ceremony while warning of dire consequences if the talks "fail again."

"This is... our solemn responsibility... a historical responsibility not to condemn the future generations of Syrian children to long years of bitter and bloody conflict," he said.

Speaking to TRT World on the sidelines of the Geneva talks, the spokesperson of Free Syria Army (FSA) Issam al-Reis said the opposition "preferred direct negotiations" and that they expect to get "a clear vision [on] what the [Assad] regime is coming here for."

"We have come to talk about the transitional government," he added.

UNSC to vote whether to blacklist regime commanders

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council will likely vote on a resolution to blacklist 11 Syrian military commanders and officials over chemical weapons attacks as early as next week, a diplomat said on Thursday.

The draft UNSC resolution also seeks to ban the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian regime and to blacklist 10 regime and related entities involved in the development and production of chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

It calls for an asset freeze and travel ban for the individuals and entities across all UN member states.

A joint inquiry by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that Syrian regime forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks and that Daesh had used mustard gas.

The Assad regime has denied its forces have used chemical weapons.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies