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Signs of hope in Syria peace process

TALKS aimed at ending the war in Syria have taken a tentative step forward after both sides agreed to use the same document as the basis of discussions, although they disagreed about how the negotiations should proceed.

Both sides said they had agreed to use the Geneva communique, a document agreed at a previous international conference in Geneva in June 2012, and which sets out the stages needed for an end to the fighting and a political transition.

Opposition spokesman Louay al Safi said: "We have agreed Geneva 1 is the basis of the talks."

Bouthaina Shaaban, a Syrian presidential adviser, said there was agreement on using the text, but with some reservations.

The opposition wants to start by addressing the question of the transitional governing body the talks aim to create, but the government says the first step is to discuss "terrorism".

The government describes those fighting to overthrow President Bashar al Assad as terrorists. The opposition says transitional arrangements must include the removal of Mr Assad which the government rejects.

Despite the differing interpretations of Geneva 1, organisers of the talks at the UN in Geneva have been at pains to keep the process going and dissuade either of the sides from walking out.

Syrian state television said the government wanted to discuss the text of Geneva 1 "paragraph by paragraph".

Mr Shaaban added: "Mr Brahimi said tomorrow they are going to discuss terrorism because stopping terrorism is the first issue that should be handled.

"Even in Geneva 1 the first item is to stop violence which has turned to terrorism."

International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who is chairing the talks, said earlier both sides were talking to the media too much and should respect the confidentiality of the talks.

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