Syrian Peace Talks Begin in Sochi

Kremlin Press Service

Kremlin Press Service

France's foreign minister said Monday he was sceptical of any breakthrough at upcoming talks hosted by Russian Federation and aimed at ending Syria's bitter civil war.

The Congress is particularly aimed at setting up a commission to draw up a new Syrian constitution.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call with reporters Monday that the opposition's boycott would not seriously hinder the conference, according to Reuters.

Western powers and some Arab states believe the Sochi talks are an attempt by Russian Federation to create a separate peace process that undermines the United Nations peace effort while laying the groundwork for a solution favorable to regime head Bashar al-Assad and allies Russian Federation and Iran.

On the sidelines of the congress in Sochi, Mr. Jaberi Ansari is hoping to meet with some Syrian figures attending the event to exchange views with.

Moscow, which is the main global ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has invited some 1,600 delegates - including from the ruling Baath Party and organizations close to the government - to the January 29-30 conference.

More than three dozen other Syrian rebel groups, including influential Islamists, had previously said they would not come to Sochi. "If, as a result, the main political groups present will agree to initiate the submission of these proposals, this will be a serious breakthrough", Abzalov said.

The Trump administration has remained guarded about the Russia-led process, offering no comment on it in recent days. "France will not participate in the work being carried out there", the spokesman said.

Turkey, which supports Syrian rebels vying for Assad's ouster, is co-sponsoring the congress along with regime-backer Iran.

"Over 1,600 delegates representing all layers of the Syrian society are invited to attend the congress".

An incomplete list of participants seen by AFP included around 350 regime-tolerated opposition representatives.

Moscow, which has spearheaded rounds of talks from the start of past year in Kazakhstan's Astana, initially hoped to convene the congress in Sochi last November but those efforts collapsed following a lack of agreement among co-sponsors.

Western powers have viewed the Russian peace initiative with suspicion, worrying that Moscow is seeking to undermine the UN-backed talks with a view to carving out a settlement that strengthens its ally Assad.

The UN's special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was expected to attend the Sochi conference.

The Congress is taking place in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 29-30.

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