Pro-Kremlin youths hold a Syrian flag bearing a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a picket in protest against American policy in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
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Talks on ending the war in Syria were set to start in Moscow Monday but the absence of key opposition groups meant there was little hope of progress in resolving the conflict.Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar al-Jaafari, was heading the government delegation for the four days of meetings with members of the domestic "tolerated" opposition, the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC). The closed-door discussions are expected to focus on humanitarian issues and serve as a way for Russia, a main backer of the Syrian regime, to build its profile as a potential mediator in the conflict.They follow an similar round of meetings between the government and officially tolerated opposition in Moscow in late January that failed to make any concrete progress towards resolving the deep-rooted conflict. Most of Syria's opposition in exile has made it clear that Assad must step down in any deal to end the conflict that began with demonstrations against his rule in March 2011 .
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