A shaky start to peace talks on Syrian war

FILE – In this Thursday, July 23, 2015 file photo, Syrian refugee Mohammed Askar, 39, touches the grave of his daughter Jawahir, 1, who died after suffering from chronic malnutrition,”I wish the circumstances were different and I could have saved my daughter, but we are poor and powerless and we have only God with us,” her father said. (AP Photo)

WEB DESK: Peace talks aimed at ending Syria’s civil war are off to a shaky start, with the main opposition group at first boycotting the session, then agreeing to meet with U.N. officials — but still insisting it won’t negotiate. Here’s what we know about the sometimes confusing events that took place in Geneva:

— The opposition group, called the Higher Negotiating Committee, has said it wouldn’t participate without an end to airstrikes on civilians by Russian and Syrian government forces, a lifting of blockades of towns in rebel-held areas, and the release of detainees.

— Then, as U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura opened the session by meeting with a delegation representing the Syrian government, the HNC said it would come to Geneva. It would wait until its conditions are met, it added, and only then would it negotiate.

— De Mistura said he had “good reason to believe” the HNC would join the talks on Sunday.

— U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington welcomes the HNC’s “important decision … to attend negotiations.”