Geneva talks between Syrian government and opposition are underway

The war has left much of Syria in ruins and millions displaced

UN-sponsored peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition are under way in Geneva for the first time in nearly a year, the BBC reported.

The two sides will not meet face-to-face to begin with, the BBC added.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special Syria envoy, said on Wednesday he was “not expecting a breakthrough”.

The opposition is insisting that the fate of President Bashar al-Assad is on the agenda – something the government has refused to discuss, according to BBC.

At least 300,000 people have been killed since the war began in 2011. More than 4.8m have fled the country and a further 6.3m have been displaced inside Syria itself.

While hopes of a breakthrough at the talks are low, much has changed since the last round broke down in April 2016, the BBC indicated.

The BBC added that the rebels lost their key bastion of East Aleppo to government forces in December and a nationwide ceasefire (barring certain jihadist groups) has been largely holding for the past several weeks.

The ceasefire was orchestrated by Turkey, one of the main backers of the rebels, and Russia, Syria’s ally. Both powers have also sponsored recent rounds of talks between the government and rebels in Kazakhstan, aimed at shoring up the truce, the BBC concluded.

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