A Syrian civil defense volunteer searches through the rubble following an airstrike in the rebel-controlled town of Hamouria, in Eastern Ghouta.
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The eighth round of Syria peace talks got underway Tuesday with a revamped and expanded opposition team meeting with the U.N. envoy in Geneva, but President Bashar Assad's government was conspicuously absent and Russia bemoaned back-channel diplomacy among key world powers."During intense discussions over the last two days, de Mistura pledged to the government delegation that there would not be any ... discussion of the Riyadh statement," an opposition text that references Assad's ouster, a source close to the government told AFP.Speaking after he briefed key envoys from the five U.N Security Council member countries behind closed doors, de Mistura confirmed to the Associated Press that the Syrian government had agreed to come the the talks Wednesday – after Damascus had reportedly delayed its initial participation.unexplained tardiness of Assad's delegation in Geneva appeared to reflect the government's displeasure with the opposition's insistence that Assad must step down at the start of an eventual transitional period in Syria – something that is sought under a key U.N. Security Council resolution underpinning the Geneva talks.
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