World

Are Syrians ready to talk? After bitter opening to peace talks, UN takes a day to find out

  • U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, left, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a joint press conference during the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting saying that the peace talks will face "formidable" challenges for Syria. Ban called on the Syrian government and the opposition trying to overthrow it to negotiate in good faith. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

    U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, left, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a joint press conference during the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting saying that the peace talks will face "formidable" challenges for Syria. Ban called on the Syrian government and the opposition trying to overthrow it to negotiate in good faith. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)  (The Associated Press)

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a press conference during the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting saying that the peace talks will face "formidable" challenges for Syria. He called on the Syrian government and the opposition trying to overthrow it to negotiate in good faith. (AP Photo/KEYSTONE/Salvatore Di Nolfi)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a press conference during the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting saying that the peace talks will face "formidable" challenges for Syria. He called on the Syrian government and the opposition trying to overthrow it to negotiate in good faith. (AP Photo/KEYSTONE/Salvatore Di Nolfi)  (The Associated Press)

The United Nations has a day to see if there is enough common ground for Syrians in Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and those representing the opposition to talk directly for the first time.

Peace talks got off to a tense start, although the U.N. mediator meeting separately with each delegation Thursday said there are signs they could bend on humanitarian aid, cease-fires and prisoner exchanges. But there were few outward signs of relenting.

Assad's future is at the heart of the dispute. Assad's delegation says the president will not leave power. The Syrian National Coalition — and the U.S. — say staying is out of the question.

"All they have done so far is ignore reality, reject everything and deceive," said Burhan Ghalyoun, a member of the Western-backed opposition.