Moscow: Syrian opposition figures on Monday began four days of talks on how to end the near four-year conflict, with members of President Bashar al-Assad`s regime set to join them but the main exiled opposition alliance boycotting the event.
The closed-door talks opened as planned at 11 am Moscow time (0800 GMT), a Russian diplomatic source told RIA Novosti. The talks are set to run until Thursday.
"Around 25 (members of the Syrian opposition) have arrived. I think there will be up to 30," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said.
Russia, the most powerful backer of Assad`s government, hopes to burnish its credentials as a diplomatic mediator while it is itself mired in a showdown with the West over the conflict in Ukraine.
But the main exiled opposition alliance, the National Coalition, is not attending the Moscow talks although five of its members are there in a personal capacity along with members of opposition groups tolerated by the Damascus authorities.
"Any talks should be held in a neutral country and overseen by the United Nations," a source in the coalition said earlier, referring to Russia`s status as a key Assad ally.
The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, will head the government team, which will join the talks on Wednesday, a pro-government newspaper reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week he hoped there would be "chemistry" at the meetings that will help the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, organise a new peace conference to negotiate a way out of the civil war that has claimed more than 200,000 lives since 2011.
Lavrov may meet members of opposition groups on Wednesday "if there is a constructive mood", Bogdanov said.
Two previous rounds of talks in Geneva ended without success.