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First direct talks between Syrian government and opposition conclude

The two warring sides in Syria's conflict have met together in the same room for the first time since peace talks began on Wednesday. But the meeting was of very short duration.

Syria's government and opposition, currently enmired in a bloody civil war, met for a first round of direct talks on Saturday morning in Geneva, the United Nations has said.

Sources said the meeting, during which the two sides discussed preparations and framework for further negotiations, lasted just 40 minutes.

The peace negotiations in Switzerland are set to last for an initial period of a week.

Following the brief meeting, the delegations from the government and the opposition Syrian National Coalition were believed to have moved to separate offices, with UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi reportedly shuttling between them.

Humanitarian focus

Brahimi is expected to try to persuade the two parties to resume direct talks on humanitarian issues in the afternoon. The situation in the besieged central city of Homs was likely to be a focus of the talks.

Direct talks had been hampered by opposition demands that the regime be prepared to discuss Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's stepping down, something the government has previously refused to do.

Some 130,000 people are thought to have died so far in Syria in an uprising that initially began with peaceful protests against Assad in March 2011.

The conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, as well as attracting al Qaeda-linked militants into the fray.

tj/rc (AP, AFP, dpa)

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