U.N Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, left, and U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a joint press conference during the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2014.
U.N Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, left, and U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a joint press conference during the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2014.
News   /   Syrian Crisis

U.N mediator "Lakhdar Brahimi" meets Syria's warring sides behind closed doors today to gauge if they are willing to sit down face-to-face after the first day of a peace conference ended in bitter exchanges.

Brahimi will hold separate meetings with delegations from Syrian government and the opposition before full talks resume in Geneva on Friday.

The UN-sponsored conference - the biggest diplomatic effort yet to resolve Syria's devastating crisis - opened in the Swiss town of Montreux on Wednesday with heated disagreements among the two sides and world powers.

But neither side walked out and Brahimi said he would talk with both parties on Thursday to see "how best we can move forward".

"Do we go straight into one room and start discussing or do we talk a little bit more separately?... I don't know yet", Brahimi said.

Officials have said the talks could last between seven to 10 days and possibly resume after a break.

Expectations are very low for a breakthrough at the conference, but diplomats believe that simply bringing the two sides together for the first time is a mark of some progress and could be an important first step.

With no one appearing ready for serious concessions, mediators will be looking for short-term deals to keep the process moving forward, including on localised ceasefires, freer humanitarian access and prisoner exchanges.

Brahimi said he "had indications" from both sides that they were willing to discuss these issues.

Hadi Al-Bahra, a member of the opposition coalition's delegation, said they would be meeting with Brahimi in Geneva to work out the details of Friday's talks.

In a vehement attack during his opening speech, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem accused the opposition of being "traitors" and agents of foreign governments.

A subsequent press conference by Syria's envoy to the U.N" Bashar Jaafari" went on so long that three others, including one planned by the opposition, were cancelled.

Top diplomats from 40 nations and international bodies gathered in Montreux and Ban said some could be called back if progress is made in the talks.

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