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The Syrian government has dismissed the meetings in Doha, and Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi called them political folly. In an interview on state-run Syrian TV aired late Friday, al-Zoubi said those who “meet in hotels” abroad are “deluding themselves” if they think they can overthrow the government.

The uprising against Assad began in March 2011 with peaceful protests, inspired by the Arab Spring wave of revolutions in the Middle East. But a regime crackdown prompted fierce fighting, propelling the conflict into a civil war that has taken on sectarian overtones. In all, activists say more than 36,000 people have been killed.