UN chief Ban Ki—moon hails "progress" in the Syria peace talks in Geneva, saying both sides have made concessions.

With the Syrian Government and Opposition teams in Geneva debating the formation of an interim governing body on Thursday, the two sides are tackling the most difficult issue.

The new authority is mandated under the Geneva I communique — the peace framework agreed at talks in June 2012 that brought together world powers, including Western backers of the Opposition and Russia, President Bashar al—Assad’s main ally.

It is further backed up by UN Security Council resolution 2118, passed after a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus in August.

While UN mediator Lakdhar Brahimi asked the two delegations on Wednesday to present their own visions regarding the size, makeup and mandate of the commission, the Geneva I communique has already set out guidelines.

NEUTRALITY: The purpose of the transitional governing body is to “establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place.”

UNITY GOVERNMENT: The Geneva communique says the body “could include members of the current government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.”

FULL EXECUTIVE POWERS: The transitional governing body as outlined by Geneva I is to enjoy full executive powers. Syria’s military and security services are to be “preserved or restored” but will be subject to the its authority.

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM: An inclusive and meaningful national dialogue is to take place, on the basis of which Syria’s “constitutional order and legal system” can be reviewed.

ELECTIONS: Once a new constitution is approved, free and fair multi—party elections are to be held — ending over fifty years of monopolization of the political scene by al—Assad’s Baath Arab Socialist Party.

RULE OF LAW: The Geneva communique says mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that the new Syria complies with international standards on the independence of the judiciary, human rights, government accountability, and the rule of law.

Meanwhile in Berlin, UN chief Ban Ki—moon hailed the “progress” in the Syria peace talks in Geneva, saying both sides have made concessions. “Progress has been made,” Ban said.

The talks between Damascus and the Opposition must result in action to reduce the suffering of civilians in cities such as Homs, he said.

The situation on the ground remained “extremely difficult.” Ban said the Syrian delegations would leave Geneva Friday to brief their leaders and the talks would resume next month, but with no date set yet.

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