GENEVA, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Syrian government and opposition representatives sat together Saturday in a joint meeting with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, tentatively initiating talks to end their three-year-old war.
According to sources from the UN Information Service of Geneva, the two sides "are now meeting together with the Joint Special Representative at the UN Office at Geneva."
The session gave rise to some hope after a rocky start to the international conference on Syria, dubbed Geneva II, which saw acrimonious exchanges between the two sides.
After the meeting, Monzer Akbik, spokesperson for the chairman of the main opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), gave reporters some details.
"The idea was that we meet today in one room, the delegation representing the Syrian people, that is the national coalition, in front of the delegation representing Bashar Assad's Syrian government," Akbik said.
"It was a U-shaped table. The two delegations sat opposite to each other, with Lakhdar Brahimi in the middle. The only person who spoke in this session was Brahimi," he said. "Brahimi started straightly his speech. And we agreed to hold another session at 4 o'clock, when we will start working on the negotiation. "
The head of two delegations will talk directly with Brahimi, not with each other, Akbik disclosed. If somebody within the delegation want to talk, he will have to take the permission from the head of the delegation and they can talk.
He told reporters that they were going to "start today and tomorrow talking about some measures that, in one way we will help building the confidence between the two delegations, and on the other hand it will help alleviate and remove the suffering of the Syrian people however is possible."
To start with, they will talk about Homs and possibly other areas like Damascus, about possible exchange of prisoners and detainees, as well as opening humanitarian corridors for the besieged. "But in two days time, we will start political negotiation and we will start talking about transitional governing body," he said.
Bashar Ja'afari, Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the UN, said of the negotiation: "We came for that."
Earlier, he had told media: "We came with positive spirit and open mind to discuss everything with the other delegation. This is why we are here."
He acknowledged the core issues would not be discussed on the first day of talks.
"Today is about format," he said.
Before the start of Geneva II, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem who led the government delegation, had announced that subjects related to the status of the president were "red-lines" and could not be touched.
Geneva II marks the first time representatives of both the government and opposition have entered direct negotiations since the onset of the conflict.
They were originally supposed to start direct talks on Friday. However, the process did not proceed as scheduled, and Brahimi spent two days mediating between the two parties.
Friday afternoon, SNC spokesman Louay Safi accused the government of lacking goodwill and attempting to run away from the political process.
But Ja'afari said: "They should have come to the conference yesterday. They didn't come. That means they have some kind of confusion somewhere at some level."
"If you want commitment, you should address to the other side," he said.
"We are committed," he said.