Syrian opposition politicians boycotted a two-day meeting, which leaders say is aimed at steering a path towards multi-party democracy.
The conference was opened this morning in Damascus by Vice President Farouk al-Chareh.
Many independent MPs had vowed to stay away and, on Friday, called on demonstrators to take to the streets against the planned dialogue.
At least 15 people were killed by security forces during protests across the country and more than 200 were arrested.
The government has promised to discuss a wide range of reforms at the dialogue, including amending a clause in the Syrian constitution that enshrines the ruling Baath party’s role in political life.