The U.N. special envoy to Syria has arrived in Damascus for talks with Syrian officials in preparation for peace negotiations between President Bashar Assad's government and its opponents later this month in Geneva.

Staffan de Mistura was received by deputy Syrian foreign minister, Aymen Sossan, upon arrival on Friday. He did not take questions from the media.

The U.N. is pushing the sides in Syria's civil war to the negotiating table on Jan. 25, in an effort to find a resolution for the five-year conflict.

De Mistura's visit comes after his meetings with Syrian opposition officials in Saudi Arabia, which is the main backer of Assad's opponents.

The civil war in Syria has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced about half of the country's population, according to the U.N.