The UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has met representatives of President Bashar al - Assad in Geneva at the start of UN - mandated peace talks. The Syrian government delegation to the talks is headed by the country’s ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Ja’afari. There had been speculations that the highly anticipated talks could be delayed due to objections raised by some groups fighting against the government of President Assad. Some opposition groups on Friday said they will stay away from the talks as their demand had been ignored by the UN. Basma Kodmani, a member of the opposition's negotiating team, said they are still waiting for a response from the UN on demands such as lifting the siege on militant-held areas and an end to the aerial campaign by Russian and Syrian warplanes. The Russian Air Force has been engaged in combat sorties against the positions of the Takfiri Daesh terrorists in Syria since September 30, 2015, upon a request from Damascus. On January 25, de Mistura said in a briefing with reporters that no precondition will be accepted ahead of the negotiations, adding that the warring sides of the conflict should not miss the great opportunity of negotiations in Geneva. De Mistura’s statement on Friday reiterated that the fresh round of talks will be, as declared before, in form of “proximity talks” with no direct meetings planned between the government and representatives of the foreign-backed opposition.