The much-awaited peace talks between the Syrian government and its opponents might not lead to a breakthrough immediately, but are expected to build momentum towards peace, United Nations envoy for Syria said on Wednesday (22 February).

Raising the concerns a day before the peace talks begin on Thursday in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura also warned that some unspecified "spoilers" could try to disrupt his efforts to bring peace to the war-torn nation, the Associated Press wrote.

"We want to give a chance to the Syrian people, to the Syrian parties, to try to have some type of dialogue" that can lead "beyond just a conflict," the ambassador told reporters in Geneva, adding that he was determined to keep "a very proactive momentum" in the talks.

"I'm not expecting an immediate breakthrough from this negotiation, but the beginning of a series of rounds that will be able to go much more in depth into the substantive issues," he said.

The ambassador also said that the discussions will focus on holding new elections, forming a new constitution and new governance.

The Syrian civil war – between President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups demanding his ouster – broke out almost six years ago, ravaging the Middle East nation, leaving tens of thousands of people dead and several others, homeless.

conflict photos 2016
Syria peace talks are set to begin on Thursday, 23 February, in Geneva with the aim to end years of killings and devastation in the war-torn Middle East nation - File photo Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

Russia is providing air support to Assad's forces in their fight to regain rebel-controlled areas of the country, while some rebel factions are drawing support from neighbouring Turkey. The ensuing conflict and the deaths of innocent civilians prompted the UN to broker the peace deal.

Following international pressure to stop violence and widespread killings, Russia and Turkey agreed to a ceasefire – on behalf of the warring sides – which was imposed in December 2016. The agreement has often been violated by both the parties.

The two allies also brokered a round of peace negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan. The peace efforts came soon after the Assad government announced victory in Aleppo, which was a major stronghold of the rebel groups.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the beginning of the UN-brokered peace talks, the main opposition group held closed-door meetings, according to the news agency.

Salem Al Meslet, a spokesman for the group told the AP that it wants "direct" talks with the government delegation. "We do not want this round to be like the last one," he said, noting that the Assad government delegation is here "just to buy time and commit more crimes in Syria".

"There is no trust in this regime. That is why we are really fighting, not only with weapons but with all efforts that we can do, to really finish this crime in Syria," Al Meslet said.