France says Sochi meeting on Syria must be under United Nations auspices

Kelvin Reese
January 31, 2018

Russian Federation is hosting what it has called a Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday that it hopes will launch negotiations on drafting a new constitution for Syria after nearly seven years of civil war.

Also in the meeting, the two sides emphasized the need for cooperation between Iran and China to end the Syrian crisis and an effective fight against terrorism.

Moscow's decision to launch a bombing campaign to support Assad in September 2015-Russia's first major military operation overseas since Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989-is widely seen as a turning point in the multi-front conflict that helped shore up the Syrian president.

"This morning, a special plane took off from the Geneva airport and headed to Sochi, carrying representatives of the Syrian opposition".

Among the first 175 participants to arrive are representatives of the ruling Baath party, the National Progressive Front political alliance, as well as members of the Syrian domestic opposition, RIA Novosti reports, citing a source.

"These committees will kick off their activities immediately after the Sochi congress and we hope that it also kick off a new trend of positive changes for establishing a reliable and stable political process to end the crisis in Syria", noted the Iranian diplomat.

Russian Federation on Tuesday hosted a showpiece congress aimed at bringing Syria's seven-year war to an end, but hopes were low after rebels pulled out at the last minute following boycotts by the main opposition and Kurds.

The Syrian government confirmed the participation of a delegation of 680 people while the Syrian opposition is to be represented by 400 participants, Anadolu Agency reported.

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The Syrian Negotiations Commission (SNC), Syria's umbrella opposition group backed by Saudi Arabia, refused to participate in the conference, saying it was created to undermine UN-sponsored peace talks.

We review the key developments in Syria, including more than 30 killed in airstrikes on Idlib, continued fighting around Afrin, and Russia's peace congress facing complications after an opposition delegation refused to leave Sochi airport.

However, the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura was expected to take part in the Sochi conference, though he had not shown up in the conference room Tuesday as the gathering started.

Initial reports revealed that the United Nations envoy and the Turkish delegation have withdrawn from the talks.

Members from Syria's Kurdish autonomous region said on January 28 they would not participate because of Turkey's ongoing offensive on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

Russian-led Syrian talks got off to a chaotic start on Tuesday following a two-hour delay and boycotts by opposition groups.

The main goal of the event is providing a mechanism to write a new Syrian constitution. The latest round of talks took place in Vienna last week.

The delegates were offended by the presence of the Syrian state's flag and emblem.

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