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Damascus Suburb Blasts Kill 60 near Shi'ite Shrine

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Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the main Syrian opposition group at the Geneva peace talks, attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 31, 2016.

Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the main Syrian opposition group at the Geneva peace talks, attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 31, 2016.

A triple bombing in a southern Damascus suburb killed at least 60 people Sunday.

Two suicide bombers detonated explosives as rescue efforts were underway after a car bombing in the Sayeda Zeinab district of Damascus, where Syria's holiest Shi'ite shrine is located.

The violence occurred before Syria's main opposition group met with U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva. Mistura is attempting to get warring Syrian factions to the negotiating table for a political solution to the country's nearly five-year civil war.

Before participating in peace talks with the Syrian government, the High Negotiations Committee is demanding an end to government sieges and Russian airstrikes in rebel-held areas.

An HNC spokesman said Saturday the group is in Geneva primarily to talk about humanitarian issues, and only then would move to further negotiations.

The U.N.-mediated talks that opened Friday are the first international effort for a peaceful settlement in Syria since the last round of U.N. negotiations broke apart in 2014 with little progress.

An overview of the room where Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. mediator for Syria, and the Syrian delegation, led by Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Jaafari, opened the Syrian peace talks at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 29,

An overview of the room where Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. mediator for Syria, and the Syrian delegation, led by Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Jaafari, opened the Syrian peace talks at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 29,

De Mistura has met with the Syrian government delegation headed by the country's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari.

Kurds leave Geneva

Representatives of Syrian Kurds fighting against the Syrian government said they were not invited to join the Geneva meetings, and will not be part of the peace talks. Turkey opposed the Syrian Kurds' participation, contending they are linked to the Kurdish fighters who have fought with Turkey for 30 years over control of Kurdish-majority areas of southeastern Turkey.

The civil war in Syria has dragged on for nearly five years, killed a quarter of a million people and displaced millions more.The conflict has also seen the birth of the Islamic State militant group and triggered a massive wave of refugees to western Europe.

The battles in Syria have intensified since September when Russia began airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad, countering the efforts of opposition groups supported by the United States, some members of the European Union, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The complicated backdrop makes the peace process especially difficult.

Residents help an injured man to walk after what activists said were three consecutive air strikes carried out by the Russian air force in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 12, 2016.

Residents help an injured man to walk after what activists said were three consecutive air strikes carried out by the Russian air force in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 12, 2016.

Significant gains for Assad's forces

With Russian support, Assad’s forces have made significant gains.Analysts say the government has little incentive to negotiate with an opposition that is weak and fractured.

Despite the opposition coalition's move toward joining the Geneva talks, analysts are pessimistic.Nadim Shehadi of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston sees little chance of success.

“We are pressuring the opposition to prove that they are united, coherent, that they have a strong leadership and that they have a vision, and a policy and a certain consensus on what the future will be," Shehadi said." And I do not think they do, I do not think they will in the near future, and I do not think they can.”

Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.

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