Syrian Opposition Plans Boycott Of Russia's 'Peace Congress'

The opposition leaders and officials of the government in Damascus, who spent two days in Vienna, did not meet face-to-face, instead exchanged proposals via United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

At the last round in December, the Syrian government delegation objected to the opposition's tough line on the future of Assad, and those talks achieved nothing.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday that the Vienna meeting, after several failed rounds held in Geneva, was the "last hope" for reaching a political solution.

The UN-sponsored talks concluded without significant progress.

The brutal Syrian war, which has claimed more than 340,000 lives since 2011, has grown even more complex over the past week with Turkey launching a ground operation against Kurdish fighters in northern Afrin.

The event will be held in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 29-30, with invitations to participate sent to UN representatives and observers from Great Britain, China, the United States and France - as permanent member of the UN Security Council, as well as to Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

That has heightened tensions with Turkey's Western allies - particularly the USA, which has backed the Kurdish YPG in their fight against the Daesh - with Germany calling for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to hold talks over Ankara's operation "Olive Branch".

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Some 1,600 people have been invited to the talks aimed at agreeing a post-war constitution, the Kremlin said Thursday.

Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian Negotiations Commission, this week said it would need further details before it could make a final decision on whether to attend the talks, which dozens of rebel factions have already rejected.

The talks follow the Astana meetings in Kazakhstan which led to four "de-escalation zones" agreed under a deal previous year between rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Iran and Russian Federation.

"The Geneva process is not dead", said Fiodor Loukianov, a Russian political analyst.

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.

Moscow deemed as unfounded slander the USA accusations that Russian Federation or the Syrian government was responsible for a toxic gas attack in the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus earlier this week.

  • Adam Floyd