Syria warring sides agree to meet in same room: UN mediator

Syria's regime and opposition have agreed to meet together in the same room for peace talks in Geneva on Saturday, UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said.

"I met the delegations of the opposition and the government separately yesterday (Thursday) and again today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) we expect, we have agreed, that we will meet in the same room," Brahimi told journalists.

Pulled together by the United Nations, Russia and the United States, delegations from President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the opposition had been due to sit down early Friday at UN headquarters in Geneva for their first face-to-face talks.

But Brahimi was unable to convince them to sit together, after the opposition insisted the regime must be prepared to discuss Assad leaving power.

"We knew that it was going to be difficult, complicated," Brahimi said. "We never expected this to be easy -- I think the two parties understand what is at stake."

The regime has threatened to withdraw from the talks should "serious sessions" fail to take place on Saturday, but Brahimi appeared confident no one would be immediately walking away from the talks.

"Both parties are going to be here tomorrow and they will be meeting. Nobody will be leaving on Saturday and nobody will be leaving on Sunday," he said.

Brahimi said discussions so far had been "encouraging" but said talks on concrete issues had not yet begun.

"We have not discussed the core matters yet. We hope that both parties will give concessions that will be to the benefit of the process," he said.