GENEVA — Bending to intense international pressure, Syria’s government and the Western-backed opposition agreed Friday to face each other for the first time since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad.
After three days of hostile rhetoric and five hours spent assiduously avoiding contact within the United Nations, the two sides will meet “in the same room,” said the U.N. mediator trying to forge an end to the civil war that has resulted in 130,000 people dead since 2011.
Mediator Lakhdar Brahimi met separately with Assad’s delegation and representatives with the Syrian National Coalition, who arrived at the U.N. European headquarters five hours apart to ensure their paths would not cross.
“We never expected it to be easy and I’m sure it’s not going to be, but I think the two parties understand what’s at stake,” Brahimi said. “Their country is in very, very bad shape.”
Brahimi, a famously patient mediator, is credited with efforts to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan after the U.S. ousted their governments. He faces a formidable task to build peace in Syria.