Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Italy helps integrate asylum seekers through training

Read more

FOCUS

'It's a jungle': Living on the street in the City of Light

Read more

THE DEBATE

Boko Haram Kidnappings: Can Nigerian schoolgirls be protected?

Read more

PEOPLE & PROFIT

Brand Trump: Has the US president damaged his company's reputation?

Read more

ENCORE!

Oscars sneak peek: 'Call Me By Your Name', 'I, Tonya' and 'Darkest Hour'

Read more

FRENCH CONNECTIONS

Are the French rude, or is it a big misunderstanding?

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Gun control in the US: A glimmer of compromise?

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Opposition activist Evan Mawarire: Zimbabweans hope they can 'reset our future'

Read more

IN THE PRESS

Donald Trump's cheat sheet

Read more

Middle East

Syria opposition to boycott peace talks in Russia

© Vasily Maximov, AFP file picture | Syria's opposition chief negotiator Nasr al-Hariri (right) attends a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister in Moscow on January 22, 2018

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-01-27

Syria's main opposition group on Friday said it would boycott Russian peace talks next week in a major blow to Moscow's diplomatic efforts towards resolving the brutal seven-year conflict.

"Russia has not succeeded in promoting its conference," the opposition Syrian Negotiations Commission (SNC) said on its Twitter account.

"The SNC has decided not to participate at Sochi after marathon negotiations with the UN and representatives of countries involved in Syria."

Dozens of rebel groups had already refused to join the talks in the Black Sea resort next Monday and Tuesday organised by the Syrian regime's powerful ally Moscow, and the question of whether the main opposition would attend has overshadowed two days of separate UN-backed peace talks in Vienna.

Those talks stretched late into Friday night, with both regime officials and the SNC meeting separately with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura -- who did not strike an especially optimistic tone after the gruelling negotiations.

The UN confirmed later Saturday that de Mistura would attend the peace conference in Sochi.

As with eight previous rounds of failed UN-backed talks in Geneva, there was no sign that the warring sides had met face to face at discussions intended to lay the groundwork for a new post-war constitution.

De Mistura, speaking to reporters early Saturday, admitted there had been a disheartening lack of progress up until now in finding a solution for a war that has killed more than 340,000 people.

"I share the immense frustration of millions of Syrians inside and outside the country at the lack of a political settlement to date," he said.

Russian ambitions

Some 1,600 people have been invited to attend the talks in Sochi.

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".

"I hope that the forthcoming Syrian national dialogue congress in Sochi will contribute to a revived and credible intra-Syrian process under the UN in Geneva," he added.

Ahead of an SNC press conference on Saturday morning there was little detail about why the opposition had ultimately decided to boycott Sochi, though spokesman Yahya al-Aridi earlier described the talks in Vienna as "tough".

Western powers have viewed the Russian peace initiative -- which is also backed by Turkey and Iran -- with suspicion, worrying that Moscow is seeking to undermine the UN-backed talks with an ultimate view to carving out a settlement that strengthens its ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

'Black comedy'

Haid Haid, a consulting research fellow at Chatham House think-tank, said Russia's long-term strategic interests were at play in Sochi.

"They want to present themselves as peace brokers, not only in Syria but in the Middle East in general, a role traditionally carried out by the Americans," Haid told AFP.

"For the Russians to take this role, they have to do what the Americans were not able to do -- find a solution in Syria," he said.

The Vienna talks were also marked by anger from the regime over a leaked set of political proposals from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Britain and France that would involve strengthening the role of Syria's prime minister -- at the expense of Assad's authority.

Top government negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari told reporters it was "tantamount to a black comedy" that these countries were seeking to shape Syria's political future, as Arabic and English versions of the document circulated online.

"All of them have participated in the bloodshed of the Syrian people," he said of the five nations, blasting the US as the country "that created ISIS" and adding that Saudi Arabia was anything but a "beacon of freedom in the east".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2018-01-27

  • TURKEY - SYRIA

    Turkey's Erdogan threatens to expand Syria offensive

    Read more

  • TURKEY - SYRIA

    Video: On the frontline in the Syrian border city of Azzaz

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    UN chief wants Security Council to revive Syria gas attacks probe

    Read more

COMMENT(S)