MIDDLE EAST

Syria talks in Geneva begin amid new ceasefire

SYRIA TALKS IN GENEVA BEGIN AMID NEW CEASEFIRE

A seventh round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva began on Monday with a meeting between the UN envoy on the war-torn country and a regime delegation.

Staffan de Mistura met a Bashar al-Assad regime team headed by Bashar al-Jaafari at the UN offices at Geneva.

The meeting comes amid a new ceasefire in Syria, announced by the U.S and Russia on Friday.

De Mistura is expected to meet today with an opposition delegation headed by Nasr al-Hariri and hold a news conference this afternoon.

According to the UN, this round will focus on the same four topics -- Syria's constitution, governance, elections and the fight against terrorism -- which were discussed in previous talks.

The UN special envoy intends to convene more discussions in August and in September.

On May 19, a sixth round of talks ended without progress.

Since civil war in Syria erupted in March 2011, more than 250,000 people have been killed, according to the UN. The Syrian Center for Policy Research puts the death toll at more than 470,000.

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