Jan. 24 - The Syrian government and its opponents will hold their first joint meeting on Saturday to launch peace talks aimed at resolving nearly three years of civil war, after negotiations almost collapsed before they started. Mana Rabiee reports.
The Syria peace talks in Geneva nearly collapsed Friday. But outside their hotel, the Syrian government delegation is given a warm welcome by supporters of President Bashar al-Assad. The talks faltered largely on whether the Syrian government accepts an earlier protocol - dubbed Geneva 1 - that called for political transition in Syria, suggesting Assad might have to go. Assad's Deputy Foreign Minister also complained the opposition gathered in Geneva doesn't adequately represent the rebels doing the actual fighting. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER FAISAL AL-MIQDAD, SAYING: "Talks should always be with the widest part of the Syrian opposition…We believe that 99 percent of the Syrian opposition is not represented in the opposition that we see today in Geneva. Excuses -- says the spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Coalition. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SYRIAN NATIONAL COALITION SPOKESMAN, LOUAY SAFI, SAYING: "They want to just maneuver and play stalling tactics just to get out of their commitment and we're not going to accept that." Some progress WAS eventually made. U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said both sides are putting aside - for now - the Geneva 1 issue. They've agreed to meet on Saturday - for the first time -- in one room, face to face. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UN MEDIATOR, LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, SAYING: ''The discussions I had with the two parties were encouraging. You know, we do expect some bumps on the road. It is impossible that there aren't any in a situation like this." Major hurdles do remain. Among them, Islamist militants -- who control most of rebel-held territory -- have boycotted the talks. They say anyone attending negotiations that fail to bring down Assad will be considered traitors.