Syria opposition to boycott Russian peace talks

28 January, 2018, 00:39 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • UN envoy Staffan de Mistura looks on before the start of talks on Syria in Vienna on Thursday

Critics of the Sochi talks, which are backed by Turkey and Iran, accuse Russian Federation of trying to hijack the Syrian peace process from the United Nations and come up with a result that favors the government of Bashar al-Assad.

In addition to the United Nations sessions, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have been sponsoring parallel peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, dealing more with battlefield issues and have led to the establishment of four "de-escalation zones" in Syria a year ago.

Nine rounds of United Nations peace talks between the warring sides have made little progress toward ending the civil war in which hundreds of thousands have been killed and 11 million - a majority of the Syrian population - driven from their homes.

Having regained the upper hand on the battlefield after almost seven years of conflict, Assad appears unwilling to negotiate with his enemies at all, let alone step down as part of any peaceful solution as rebels and opposition groups have demanded. He said the talks would be a test of all sides' commitment to a political solution rather than a military one.

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Moscow initially hoped to convene peace talks in Sochi last November but those efforts collapsed following a lack of agreement among co-sponsors.

Government forces have mounted offensives against two remaining rebel pockets, Idlib in the northwest and eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

The Iranian diplomat is also expected to sit for talks with other senior Syrian officials over the latest developments in the war-stricken country, a Farsi report by the Fars News Agency said.

"The secretary general, Antonio Guterres, is being briefed and will be briefed tonight on the outcome of these Vienna discussions".

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The Syrian National Dialogue Congress is due to take place in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi on January 29-30.

De Mistura stressed the legitimacy of the UN-led talks over Russia's parallel peace push, however, saying firmly that a political transition for Syria "is to be reached in the UN-led Geneva process".

The meeting comes as part of a new round of the intra-Syrian dialogue in the context of the Geneva political process.

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