1142 GMT February 24, 2018
The Syrian Congress of National Dialog had started out on Monday and continued on Tuesday. The talks are moderated by Russia and Iran, on the side of Damascus, and Turkey, which aligns itself with several armed opposition groups, presstv.com reported.
The discussions are meant to build on the results of many rounds of negotiations between Damascus and the opposition, which were held in the Kazakh capital of Astana last year.
The Astana process came after the guarantor states helped bring a ceasefire to Syria’s second city of Aleppo, and then to entire Syria, which has been witnessing foreign-backed militancy since 2011.
It resulted in the establishment of four de-escalation zones across Syria, and was hailed by the United Nations for its contribution to a parallel process, which the world body has been mediating between Damascus and the oppositionists in Geneva.
A new round of peace talks between the Damascus government and opposition aimed at solving the crisis in Syria begins in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
One group of opposition representatives, which had arrived for the Sochi event from Turkey, refused to leave the airport for the venue, protesting the presence there of Syrian flags and emblems.
It threatened to return to Turkey unless the signs were removed.
AFP reported that the opening of the event was delayed by at least two hours due to their intransigence, prompting the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers to speak twice on the phone to try to resolve the issue.
“There have been some problems with an armed opposition group arriving from Turkey, which said its participation depended on additional requirements,” Artem Kozhin of the Russian Foreign Ministry told ITAR-TASS.
Two strands of the opposition have also boycotted the talks, namely the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) and the anti-government Kurds.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and France have withheld representatives to the process, citing “the Syrian government’s refusal to properly engage,” Reuters reported.
After the opening, some oppositionists tried to obstruct Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s speech, prompting him to remind them that they will have their own turns to talk.
Commenting on attempts to sabotage the Sochi talks, Randa Kassis, a representative of the opposition platform attending the Astana talks, said, “Unfortunately there are some countries that are against Sochi, against the political solution.”
She added that those who refused to partake in the Sochi talks “don’t really want peace in Syria, they want just to keep the war in Syria.”
A Turkish Foreign Ministry source was, meanwhile, cited by Reuters as saying that “the Syrian opposition” had declined to attend the congress, and that the Turkish delegation would represent the opposition.
The source did not verify whether it was referring to a certain faction of the opposition or the entire opposition camp.
Moscow, which has invited around 1,600 delegates to the talks, assured the process would be partaken by the all the strata of the Syrian society.
Some 1,600 people representing a wide range of Syria's political forces are expected to attend the Syria National Dialog in Sochi, Russia.
Syria peace effort on track as delegates gather in Sochi
A new round of peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition aimed at solving the country's crisis begins in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday.
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will be attending the Congress of National Dialog along with some 1,600 people representing a wide range of Syria's political forces, presstv.com reported.
However, Saudi-backed opposition group, the Syrian Negotiation Commission, has boycotted the talks and Syria’s main Kurdish militant group has said it will be absent over a Turkish incursion into northern Syria.
Moscow said on Monday the absence of some representatives of the Syrian opposition will not be a serious setback for the conference.
"The fact that some representatives of the processes currently ongoing in Syria are not participating is unlikely to stop this congress from going ahead and cannot seriously sabotage it," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Ankara has opposed the contribution of the Syrian Kurds to the initiative since it was launched last year.
Turkey said the Kurdish militants, who enjoy support from US and other Western governments, are an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has led a decades-long insurgency against the Turks.
The Turkish operation began in and around Afrin on January 20 in an apparent bid to drive out US-backed Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from the territories near Turkey's borders.
The talks in Sochi on Monday and Tuesday are sponsored by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Russia, Iran and Turkey hope the talks could compensate for the lack of progress in UN-brokered talks to end Syria's seven-year war. The three countries have coordinated the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria — a separate initiative which many say has helped drastically reduce fighting in the Arab country.
On January 26, the ninth round of UN-brokered indirect peace negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition groups was held in the Austrian capital city of Vienna.
The UN talks have so far failed to achieve any concrete results, mainly due to the opposition’s insistence that the Syrian government cede power.
Syria talks: Could Sochi bring peace via new track?
Russian-sponsored diplomatic talks over the future of Syria are set to begin in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
The new diplomatic track is meant to examine the key questions on Syria's national agenda (REUTERS)
The two-day conference — starting on Monday — has been given the name "Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue". It will be the first round of negotiations to take place in Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main ally, Aljazeera reported.
The United Nations envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura will be attending the talks, along with representatives from the Syrian, Iranian and Turkish governments.
Several individuals with the Moscow platform a dissident faction of the opposition, will be in attendance.
The new track is meant to examine the key questions on Syria's national agenda.
"First of all, that is the drawing-up of a framework for the future structure of the state, the adoption of a new constitution, and, on the basis of that, the holding of elections under United Nations supervision," Russian President Vladimir Putin said alongside his Iranian and Turkish counterparts last November.