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Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 4:32 a.m.
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Skirting tough topics, Syrian antagonists in talks

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 25, 2014 at 10:46 a.m.

syrian-opposition-chief-negotiator-hadi-bahra-2nd-right-arrives-with-louay-safi-left-spokesman-for-the-syrian-national-coalition-and-syrias-main-political-opposition-group-and-a-member-of-delegation-anas-al-abdeh-2nd-left-for-a-meeting-at-the-european-headquarters-of-the-united-nations-in-geneva-switzerland-saturday-jan-25-2014-two-syrian-delegations-representatives-of-syrian-president-bashar-al-assad-and-syrian-opposition-are-meeting-together-with-the-joint-special-representativeap-photokeystonesalvatore-di-nolfi

Syrian opposition chief negotiator Hadi Bahra, 2nd right, arrives with Louay Safi, left, spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition and Syria's main political opposition group, and a member of delegation Anas al-Abdeh, 2nd left, for a meeting at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Two Syrian delegations, representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Syrian opposition, are meeting together with the Joint Special Representative.(AP Photo/Keystone,Salvatore Di Nolfi)

GENEVA — Syria's government and the Western-backed opposition say they are focusing on humanitarian aid as they meet face to face.

The two sides aren't expected to speak directly as they start their second meeting Saturday, but will address a U.N. mediator who is trying to find common ground before the two sides start to address the thorny issues of how to end Syria's civil war.

Both sides seemed to soften their approach after days of escalating rhetoric. The opposition Syrian National Coalition had focused on ousting President Bashar Assad, while the Damascus contingent zeroed in on fighting terrorism.

On Saturday, the bitterly divided Syrians said humanitarian aid would be their priority. Louay Safi, of the coalition, described the talks as "consultations — it's not negotiations."

Read more in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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