nsucurrent.com May 21, 2018

Syria opposition says will boycott Sochi talks

28 January 2018, 12:39 | Colleen Roy

UN-sponsored peace talks on Syria will be held in Vienna on Thursday and Friday

UN-sponsored peace talks on Syria will be held in Vienna on Thursday and Friday

The Vienna talks come ahead of a "Congress of National Dialogue" peace conference in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey next Tuesday.

Syrian Negotiations Commission (SNC) spokesman Yahya al-Aridi on January 27 said the Syrian government and its ally Russian Federation had not provided it with the necessary commitments and that the Sochi talks were an attempt to undermine United Nations efforts to broker a peace deal.

Alexander Lavrentiev, Moscow's envoy on Syria, said on January 20 that, Russia, Turkey and Iran had reached consensus on a list of countries that will participate in the summit.

Sources pointed out that the Syrian regime reduced its representation at Sochi talks, in a move that may be interpreted as "overthrowing" the conference from the ground up.

"We invited Lebanon to the Sochi summit meeting", Russian Ambassador Alexander Zaspkin said in a news conference after the meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut.

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

It is no coincidence that the Vienna meeting coincided with the leaking or intentional distribution of an "informal paper" for the so-called revival of the political process in Syria by countries involved in shedding Syrian blood, al-Jaafari said.

De Mistura says he has received an invitation to attend the Sochi meeting and has been briefed on preparations for that event.

In eight rounds of talks before this week's, de Mistura has not managed to coax the two sides into speaking face to face, and it was only at the last round in December that the rebel opposition united in one delegation, raising modest hopes for direct talks.

A spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) in Vienna, Ahmad Ramadan, said, "A deal was reached Friday to implement a ceasefire in eastern Ghouta".

The focus in Sochi will be on hammering out a new constitution, according to the opposition, something that de Mistura also wants discussed in Vienna.

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