After two attempts, U.N. starts zero-expectation talks on Syria

By Sylvia Westall and Tom Miles BEIRUT/GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations has adopted a cautious approach to the Syria talks it launched this week, avoiding raising expectations that this latest initiative can end a four-year-old conflict which has so far defied all diplomatic efforts to resolve it. U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura says he wants to talk to diplomats, activists and political and military leaders to see if there is any new common ground since a roadmap for ending the war was declared in 2012. Diplomats are skeptical his efforts will come to anything, but agree this year alone much has changed, both on the battlefield and in the relationships between allies and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  “The balance of power has shifted,” said one Western diplomat who tracks Syria.

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