GENEVA – A fresh round of UN-sponsored Syria peace talks will begin on July 10 in Geneva amid slim hopes for progress towards ending over six years of bloodshed.

UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura also said he intended to convene further talks in August and September, adding meetings on constitutional and legal issues will continue alongside the formal sessions.

The last round of UN-sponsored peace talks finished on May 19 with De Mistura telling the UN Security Council that “important gaps remain between the parties on major issues,” not least the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.

The opposition insists Assad must leave power as part of any peace deal but the government has rejected the demand. The talks are aimed at ending a war that has killed more than 320,000 people since 2011 and laid waste to much of the country’s infrastructure.

Following the last round, De Mistura said time constraints had stymied progress on key topics, including a mooted new constitution and the organisation of elections. At the last talks, De Mistura said the Geneva participants were not seeking to draft a new constitution, but rather “laying foundations for the time when the Syrians can do that.” – AFP

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