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

Envoy of the Secretary General for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks

UN's Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will attend a planned summit on the Syrian conflict in Russia's coastal city of Sochi.

Syrian government and opposition have agreed on a cease-fire in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta countryside of the capital Damascus during talks at Vienna, Austria. "The HNC announces the boycott of the Sochi conference that Russian Federation had invited it to", the tweet in Arabic on the High Negotiations Committee (HNC)'s account said after UN- brokered talks in Vienna.

The announcement came after two days of separate UN-backed peace talks came to a close in Vienna, with an end to the war that has killed more than 340,000 people appearing further than ever.

Having regained the upper hand in the nearly seven-year civil war, President Bashar al-Assad appears far from ready to negotiate with foes at all, let alone step down as part of any peaceful solution as rebel groups have demanded.

United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura looks on before the start of talks on Syria in Vienna on January 25, 2018.

On Tuesday evening the British, French, Jordanian, Saudi and United States, foreign ministers met in Paris to see how to give extra support to De Mistura and consult on how to handle Russia's planned gathering in Sochi. A Syrian opposition official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said it was "not good", declining to explain why.

There have been eight previous rounds of failed UN-backed talks in Geneva.

"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.

"This round of negotiations was an worldwide test for the regime, and the test ended yesterday (Friday)", the opposition Syrian Negotiation Commission's Nasr al-Hariri told reporters in Vienna Saturday.

Moscow initially hoped to convene peace talks in Sochi last November but those efforts collapsed following a lack of agreement among co-sponsors.

"The main place to achieve a political solution, a political transition is in the UN-led process (in the Geneva framework)..."

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

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