Assad Meets U.N. Diplomat

Meeting is part of a diplomatic push to begin peace talks in Geneva next month

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The U.N.–Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, speaks to reporters in Damascus on Oct. 29, 2013

Syrian President Bashar Assad met with a United Nations-Arab League special envoy in Damascus early Wednesday.

The meeting, described to the Associated Press by a Syrian official, was the first direct contact between the embattled strongman and the special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, since last year. Brahimi previously angered the Syrian leader by saying his family has been in power for “too long.”

The Algerian diplomat’s presence in Syria and the Middle East is a part of a larger push to garner support for peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition forces in Geneva set to begin Nov. 23. Tens of thousands have died in the country’s two-and-a-half-year civil war.